Killing Gifts

Written by Deborah Woodworth
Review by Jean Langlais

During the Depression, Americans often found themselves poor and hungry. The fortunate who lived near the Hancock Shaker Village outside of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, however, found a warm welcome.

Woodworth’s fifth “Shaker Mystery” featuring Eldress Rose Callahan finds Rose summoned from her Kentucky Shaker community by Hancock’s Eldress Fannie to help solve the murder of a young woman of questionable character. Though the mystery itself is engaging and satisfying, the most compelling element is the Shaker way of life. Woodworth does an admirable job of educating us about the Shakers, and, in selecting the Depression era as a backdrop, thoughtfully addresses some of the most troublesome aspects of their community. Modest and unassuming, the Shakers lived a simple and celibate life and were industrious, prayerful and gentle. That they were so different from most people occasionally prompted the suspicion and contempt of outsiders.

When Rose arrives at Hancock Village to investigate the murder of Julia Masters, she finds herself among angry and resentful people. As Rose and her sidekick, Gennie, discover, all is not as it seems. Though the Shakers themselves try to lead upright lives, they are still tempted by the same evils as the rest of humanity. Recommended.