Behind the Book: THE SHAKER MURDERS by Eleanor Kuhns

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Shortly after Will Rees and his family arrive at a peaceful Shaker community, a series of unfortunate accidents occur killing several people. The community want to believe nothing sinister is happening, but Rees thinks otherwise. When he begins having nightmares about his family’s safety and a girl disappears, he must rush to find answers.

 

 

In the latest book in Eleanor Kuhns’s Will Rees mystery series, a peaceful Shaker community is rocked by a series of bizarre accidents. But who are the Shakers? Eleanor explains their history and why she chose to write about them . . .

Although considered the first American religion, the Shakers had their birth in Great Britain. Mother Ann Lee was a Quaker but found the faith too plain for her. The small band of Shakers (so-called from Shaking Quakers) landed in the new United States in 1775 and established their first colony near Albany, New York.

A visit to Sabbathday Lake in Maine inspired me to write about the Shakers. After we toured the village with the tour guide, I went back to the shop and bought all the books they had.

One of my hobbies is weaving (actually I enjoy all the textile arts) so I made my main character a weaver. Weaving in the 1790s was done by both men and women. This offered Rees the chance to interact with women as well as men. That would have been much more difficult if I’d made him a bricklayer.

While women wove in the home, some of the male weavers were itinerant. Because I did not want Rees to just solve mysteries in a small town in Maine, (I call that the Cabot Cove Curse after Murder she Wrote – Jessica Fletcher lived in a small town with a murder every week) I made him a traveller. This also gives me the opportunity to send him to other locales. For example, in Cradle to Grave, he solves a murder just north of Albany that involves the Shaker community there. In Death in Salem, he visits Salem, Mass that was, at that time, the sixth largest city in the U.S. as well as the wealthiest because of the trade with India and China.

Rees himself is based on my father, anger issues and all. But my father was also a craftsman who could do almost anything with his hands. I wanted to pay tribute to a time when people made things. Every book features at least one job that was important to the times. In Death of a Dyer I describe dyeing, in Cradle to Grave it is barrel making, and in Death in Salem I focus on sail and rope making. In The Shaker Murders I describe several of the items the community made to sell such as clay pipes, whip handles, brooms and more.

THE SHAKER MURDERS is available from 31 October in the UK and from 1 February in the US. Read more here.

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