The Shaker Murders (A Will Rees Mystery)

Written by Eleanor Kuhns
Review by Bryan Dumas

Will Rees and his family are hiding in Zion, a Shaker community in Maine, and hoping to find safety, but what Will discovers is a secretive sect and two murders that threaten the security of his family in Kuhns’ sixth Will Rees Murder series. Will, his pregnant wife, Lydia, and their children fled their hometown of Dugard and are in Zion because of an accusation of witchcraft against Lydia, and Will’s own murder charges—from which he cleared his own name (The Devil’s Cold Dish, 2016). Shortly after arriving in Zion, Brother Jabez is found dead in the laundry. Will is certain it was murder, but Elders Solomon and Jonathan push it off as an accident. After Will finds the murder weapon, and a second Shaker—a simple-minded young man—is killed Will is certain that the murderer is one of the Shakers themselves. Complicating matters is the matter of Lydia’s former farm, which the Shaker community believes belongs to them but Will hopes to take for his family.

While this is a murder mystery, what really sets this book apart are the descriptions of daily life and expectations for 18th-century Shakers and their community—including guests that they welcome with open arms, if only because they hope these people will sign the Covenant and join. As in any whodunit, there are plenty of shady characters, from hired farm boys to newcomers to the community up through the elders themselves, all lending to throw Will, and the reader, off course. Though there are many references to previous books, first-time readers to this series will have no trouble jumping in. Ultimately, Kuhns uses the Shaker beliefs to craft an interesting and suspenseful ending to this delightful story.