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Shaker Heights Mansion Inspired 'No One's Home'

Author D.M. Pulley's latest novel "No One's Home" is set in Shaker Heights. [ideastream graphic]
Author D.M. Pulley's latest novel "No One's Home" is set in Shaker Heights.

A real-estate tour isn’t supposed to include missing radiators, graffiti on the walls and blood stains on the floor.

Author D.M. Pulley didn’t buy the foreclosed Shaker Heights mansion she toured in the wake of the nation’s 2008 housing crisis. Instead, she imagined a history for such a place and created her latest mystery,  “No One’s Home” (Thomas & Mercer).

“I was there, touring that vacant house and kind of dreaming these dreams, that ‘Oh my gosh, you could buy it for pennies on the dollar',” Pulley said. “I wanted to actually play that game: What would have happened if I would have bought that house?”

The book is not autobiographical, but it is influenced by her experiences as an 11-year Shaker Heights resident.

“One of the things that really struck me about these gorgeous old homes in Shaker Heights is they’re so large, especially on some streets, and typically there’s just two or three people living inside them,” she said.

The book explores what happens when a doctor, his wife and their teenage son move from Boston into a large, renovated Shaker home, which — to the family’s surprise — seems haunted. Throughout the book, Pulley introduces details about previous residents and tragedies from the house's past.

Readers familiar with Shaker Heights should recognize street names and locations in the book. Pulley researched the North Union Shaker community, the religious group that lived in the area in the 1800s, and a couple of murders that took place in Shaker Heights in the last century, all of which Pulley weaves into the story.

She also researched the stigma around properties where a murder has taken place. There are different regulations in different states around what sellers have to disclose about a home, she said.

“The stigma typically wears off after five years,” Pulley said.

Before becoming a writer, Pulley worked as a building engineer. "No One's Home" is her fourth novel. She is already at work on her next book, which digs into notorious organized crime in Cleveland, including infamous figures such as Danny Greene and Shondor Birns.

D.M. Pulley speaks at a book launch Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Shaker Historical Society.

Carrie Wise is the deputy editor of arts and culture at Ideastream Public Media.