cover image The Shaker Murders

The Shaker Murders

Eleanor Kuhns. Severn, $28.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-7278-8837-2

Authentic period detail and nuanced characterizations lift Kuhns’s fine sixth whodunit set in late-18th-century Maine. In 2016’s The Devil’s Cold Dish, weaver Will Rees and his family suffered a series of calamities, which included his being accused of murder and their being forced to sell their home. Now they hope for a respite from turmoil and violence by joining the Shakers, but that proves short-lived after the body of one of the Shakers is found in a bathtub. To Will, the signs of intentional violence—a bloody wound on the dead man’s head—are clear, but the Shaker leadership insists that the death was accidental and refuses to call in outside authorities. After Will finds the murder weapon, a poker with traces of blood and hair on it, the church elders, knowing of his experience as an investigator, allow him to look into newcomers to the community as possible suspects. The stakes rise when another body turns up, this one even more clearly the product of foul play. Kuhns makes the most of the cloistered Shaker community setting in this top-notch outing. (Feb.)