I’m really pleased to be on the blog tour for A Walking Shadow by Elizabeth Ireland and to be able to share an extract with you. 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 theatre. 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.
In 1871, Lillian Nolan accepts a small role in Macbeth, and finally fulfills 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 theater, 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.
Lillian Nolan, protagonist and reluctant sleuth, follows a lead in solving the murder of renowned actress, Irene Davenport which brings her to the Underworld, the notorious den of inequity in 1871 Chicago:
I thought of Macbeth and screwing my courage to the sticking place so I said, “I don’t know what is so funny.”
At least that stopped their laughter.
“You are my sweet. Welcome to hell,” growled Ann.
Again, they laughed, finding Ann’s statement infinitely amusing.
“Make yourself comfortable. Sit down and I’ll be right with you,” said Ann.
I took stock of my surroundings and found I was being watched by the other, younger women who were sitting around as if they were waiting for something to happen. The two women conferred and Ann drew a bundle of money from her bodice, peeled off a number of bills and handed them over to Sally who nodded and left.
Then Ann turned to me, and said, with a smile that was not reflected in her eyes, “You cost me a pretty penny but I think you’ll be worth it.”
She walked over to me, reached out her hand and ripped the bodice of my dress straight down to my waist. Outraged, I tried to slap her across the face, but she punched me in the head so hard that in the next moment, I knew nothing.
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 Theatre 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.
With thanks to Elizabeth Ireland and to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources for organising the blog tour.