by Doward Wilson
This week we have a review of The Shaker Murders by Eleanor Kuhns, and an interesting interview with Eleanor. Details at the end of this post on how to win a copy of The Shaker Murders. There is also a link to purchase the book Amazon, and an indie bookstore where a portion of the sale goes to help support KRL.
The Shaker Murders: A Will Rees Mystery by Eleanor Kuhns
Review by Doward Wilson
Will Rees, a traveling weaver, has rescued his pregnant wife from witchcraft charges and taken her and their six adopted children to the safe haven of Zion, a Shaker Community in rural Maine. He has given his farm to his eldest son by his first wife and has to find a new safe home for his extended family, as they cannot return to their old life.
The Shakers are a group of believers who practice peace and separation of the male and females community members. Marriage and family are not part of their beliefs and quiet lives. The community is rocked to the core when a male member’s body is discovered in the washing and bathing house. The Elders call it a tragic accident, but Will is certain it is murder, as the man was very disliked. As he searches for clues throughout the settlement, a young boy’s body is found, and this time it is a clear cut murder. What had the boy seen on his nocturnal wanderings that would cause the murderer to kill him? As Will delves deeper into the events he discovers a skeleton at a nearby farm. Is that murder tied to the present day murders and how? At the same time a young girl disappears! How is she tied to the past and present murders? Can Will find the girl and stop the murderer before something happens to him, his wife and their children?
I really enjoyed reading this historical cozy mystery. Will and all the characters really stood out. You can definitely tell that the author did her historical research before and throughout the writing of this book. I also, enjoyed learning about the Shakers and their lifestyle. The murder plot twisted, turned, and brought us to a very surprising conclusion. The entire plot was deftly written, and I think that any cozy reader will really enjoy it.
Interview with Eleanor Kuhns:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Eleanor: Since I was a child. I wrote my first chaptered story when I was ten.
KRL: When did your first novel come out?
Eleanor: In 2012.
KRL: What was it called?
Eleanor: It was called A Simple Murder. Rees’s son runs away to the nearby Shaker community, Rees follows him and is almost immediately accused of murder.
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not, what else have you written?
Eleanor: I wrote science fiction first. In fact, my ten-year old story was science fiction. Every paragraph began with ‘Suddenly’!
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series? Please tell us a little about the setting and main character for your most recent book.
Eleanor: Since Rees’s wife is a former Shaker and both have a connection with this community, he returns to Zion frequently. In the new book, The Shaker Murders, Rees and his wife seek refuge there. In the previous book, The Devil’s Cold Dish, he was accused of murder and she of witchcraft. Barely twenty-four hours after Rees’s arrival, one of the Shakers is murdered.
Most of the action takes place within the Shaker community. Although not all the mysteries take place among the Shakers, I frequently set the books near them. It is a fascinating community. Will Rees, the amateur sleuth, is a traveling weaver and investigates murders in other locations. (See Death in Salem).
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Eleanor: Both. Of course, these are mysteries, always involving murder so far, but I always include history as well, especially pieces that I think are not so familiar.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Eleanor: I try to write every day, usually in the mornings, but I do write whenever I can. I work and have a busy life.
KRL: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?
Eleanor: I keep a separate notebook for every one of my books and, although I don’t outline, I do have pages of scenes that I want to include. I shuffle those as I write the story.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Eleanor: Always the morning. I just wish I had more than an hour or less.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Eleanor: Yes and no. I never cracked the science fiction novel market. My second Will Rees was published so I succeeded quickly in mystery.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Eleanor: I won a prize for my first novel.
KRL: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
Eleanor: The first time someone came up to me and told me they loved my books! I had two out by then. I couldn’t believe it and yet was so excited to think I had a fan.
KRL: Future writing goals?
Eleanor: I’d like to write another series (about Bronze Age Crete) as well as this one.
KRL: Writing heroes?
Eleanor: Barbara Hambly, whom I love and who writes similar books to my own – and Anne Perry.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Eleanor: Exhaustive. I use the internet to start but read many, many, books covering every topic I might need. Since I work in a library with a historical section, I have access to resources from that time period. New York State has a database of newspapers from that time – I use that heavily. I always try to visit the locations, so I can really know what it looks and smells like. Also, local museums are a great resource.
KRL: What do you read?
Eleanor: Lots of mysteries, but pretty much everything.
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Eleanor: Watch a few shows, mainly crime like NCIS. Love the science fiction adventure series like Terminator, Alien and so on.
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Eleanor: Never give up. The people who succeed are the ones who persist.
KRL: Anything you would like to add? What is something people would be surprised to know about you? Website? Twitter? Facebook?
To enter to win a copy of The Shaker Murders, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “shaker,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen April 6, 2019. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address (so if you win we can get the book sent right out to you), and if via comment please include your email address. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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