A Walking Shadow: synopsis
In 1871, Lillian Nolan accepts a small role in Macbeth, and finally fulfils her dream of becoming an actress. That is until the renowned, but venomous, female star of the production is murdered onstage opening night. When her enraged spirit haunts the theatre, Lillian is shocked to discover she can communicate with her. Offered a Faustian bargain in which she will be given talent and expertise way beyond her ability in exchange for uncovering the killer, Lillian can’t resist.
Her quest for the truth causes her to descend into the Underworld, the den of inequity below the streets of Chicago. What Lillian finds soon embroils her in a battle between her passion for performing and control over her own body as it all plays out in a supernatural game of good and evil.
I was engrossed from the very start by this exciting and original novel. It cleverly entwines fiction, the paranormal and actual historic events (namely the Great Chicago Fire of 1871). It’s thus very rich and incredibly atmospheric.
The book opens with us meeting Irene Davenport, a famous, demanding but very hardworking actress, who meets her untimely end during the first night of MacBeth, a play that is traditionally accompanied by unfortunate and unintended bad happenings. This is certainly the case here.
New actress Lillian, who is in the same play in a minor role, discovers supernatural powers she never knew existed, and makes a pact if not quite with the devil then with a decidedly vengeful ghost. The reader waits anxiously to see if this was a wise move or not.
Lillian is young but resilient. She’s already shown that characteristic by choosing to become an actress at a time when such people were considered to be not much better than harlots. She proves her mettle again when, alongside the deal she takes on with Irene, she’s also taking on powerful forces that might well prove to be beyond her control.
This is a fast, breathless read that brings a period of history to wonderful life through the imaginative story that unfolds. The author’s own love of the theatre (although ghostless, I hope!) shines through and adds an extra element to the book.
This is the first book in the Backstage Mysteries series. I’m really looking forward to reading the books that follow.
THE BACKSTAGE MYSTERY SERIES
Tagline: Life upon the wicked stage can be deadly.
Set against the backdrop of the Gilded Age, the Backstage Mystery Series stars Lillian Nolan, an unconventional member of Chicago’s upper class who dreams of a career of fortune and fame in the theater. Talented and ambitious, she possesses a hidden skill which she is extremely reluctant to use—the ability to communicate with those who have died and now live in the world of “The Beyond.”
The series chronicles her adventures in which she continually becomes enmeshed in solving mysteries which often require her accessing the realm of the paranormal. Filled with an incredible cast of characters—factual, fictional, and sometimes non-physical—who either help or hinder her quest for the truth, the stories take place during a a period considered to be the golden age of both acting and spiritualism in America.
About the author
Elizabeth Ireland discovered her passion for theatre early. After receiving undergraduate and graduate degrees in Theatre, she accepted a teaching position in a vibrant performing arts department at a college in northern Illinois. For ten years, she taught, directed and ran front-of-house operations. American Theater History—particularly that of the 19th century—has always been of particular interest to her.
She has been a quarter-finalist and a semi-finalist for the Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowship in screenwriting sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Two of her screenplays have been optioned, but remain unproduced. Her nonfiction work, Women of Vision: Ordinary Women, Extraordinary Lives, was published in 2008. Her work has also been published in a collection of paranormal short stories, Paramourtal: Tales of Undying Love and Loving the Undead. She lives in metro Atlanta with her ever-patient husband, and two quirky dachshunds.
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