In the spring of 1800, a traveling circus arrives in town. Rees is about to attend, but sees his nemesis, Magistrate Hanson in the crowd, and leaves. On the way home he meets a party of Shaker brothers searching for a missing girl. They quickly come across her lifeless body thrown into a farmer’s field.
Rees begins investigating and quickly becomes entranced by the exotic circus performers, especially the beautiful young tightrope walker.
Other murders follow. Who is the killer? One of the circus performers? One of the townspeople? Or One of the Shakers?
Genre: Historical Murder Mystery
Published by: Severn House
Publication Date: March 3rd 2020
Number of Pages: 224
ISBN: 0727890085 (ISBN13: 9780727890085)
Series: Will Rees Mysteries #8 (Each book “Stands Alone”)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads
Eleanor Kuhns is the 2011 winner of the Minotaur First Crime novel competition for A Simple Murder. She lives in upstate New York. A Circle of Death Girls is Will Rees Mystery # 8.
Q&A with Eleanor Kuhns
What was the inspiration for this book?
When I was researching Death in Salem, my fourth Will Rees, I came upon a note that said elephants were first brought to this country in 1794. In the same paragraph there was a reference to John Bill Ricketts, who brought the circus to Philadelphia in 1793. Once I knew that, I knew I had to set one of my mysteries set against the circus.
What has been the biggest challenge in your writing career?
I have had few challenges writing mysteries. Most of them came when I wrote SciFi. (I had a male editor tell me women couldn’t write good science fiction.) When I changed genres, I almost immediately achieved some success.
What do you absolutely need while writing?
Coffee. Far more important than quiet.
Do you adhere to a strict routine when writing or write when the ideas are flowing?
I rise early and write every day without fail.
Who is your favorite character from your book and why?
Lydia. She is a good counterweight to Rees. I also feel she is smarter than he is. She usually says or does something that inspires him and leads to the solution.
Who is your least favorite character from your book and why?
I don’t really have one. And I try, even with the less admirable characters, to give them a good quality or two. Take Brother Aaron from the current book. He is difficult and a misogynist. But he is warm and protective to the disabled Calvin. When the chips are down, he is on the side of the angels.
Give us an interesting fun fact or a few about your book?
Although the rebirth of the circus began in Great Britain, it quickly expanded to France. But with the French Revolution in 1789, and the increasing hostilities between England and France, the performers decamped for the new United States. What I did not realize until I was in the midst of my research was how soon after the French Revolution Napoleon began his rise.
Italy had a long tradition of performance art with the commedia del arte, and the stock characters who morphed into clowns. They also already had families of tightrope walkers and other performers. Quite a few were Jewish. When Napoleon invaded Italy, many of these artists fled, coming to the United States.
A clear case of how interconnected everything is.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
They can reach me at Eleanor.firstname.lastname@example.org or www.eleanor-kuhns.com
Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I am a lifelong librarian. I wrote my first novelette when I was ten and have really never stopped since. After I won the Mystery Writers of America/Minotaur First Novel competition in 2011, I began the long process of transitioning to full time writing.
What’s next that we can look forward to?
The next book after ‘A Circle of Dead Girls’ sends Rees and Lydia to the Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia. The book is titled ‘Death in the Great Dismal.’
Before the Civil War, hundreds, maybe thousands, of fugitive slaves took refuge in the swamp. They were nicknamed maroons. (The theory is that the word is from the French ‘marronage’; to flee.) Some did not leave the swamp until after the Civil War. Children who were born in the swamp had never seen a white person.
In the book, Tobias, a free man who was caught in the north by slave catchers and sold south, but escapes, enlists Rees and Lydia to help him rescue his enslaved wife. They make their way to Virginia, and the swamp. Shortly after their arrival in the tiny village, one of the maroons is found murdered.
There are only a handful of people living in the village. Who among them could be the murderer?
By the way, the swamp still exists although much smaller than it was. It is buggy, hot and overgrown. Since it is a peat swamp, there is little standing water. But it is still dangerous. The peat goes down ten feet or more.
The swamp is still full of bears and bobcats as well as snakes (poisonous as well as non-poisonous.). It is not a welcoming environment.
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