I’m really pleased to be on the blog tour for Foul Deeds Will Rise 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.
By 1875, Lillian Nolan believes she has successfully shut off any connection to the spirit world. That winter she is thrilled when she wins the role of Ophelia in a new production of Hamlet in her home town of Chicago. Everything changes when the body of the managing director is found sprawled across the steps of the dress circle and all the investors’ money is missing. Lillian fears, once again, her career is over before it begins.
After her dearest friend is arrested for murder, Lillian commits herself to discovering the truth. Her search is complicated by a strange man who is following her, the romantic overtures of her co-star, and a reunion with an old nemesis. But nothing is what it seems. What she does find puts a member of her own family at risk and leads to the unmasking of the killer with lethal consequences for herself.
After a performance of Hamlet at Ellicott’s Theatre in 1875, Lillian Nolan, actress and sleuth, finds her mentor, Regina Ellicott, in danger:
Regina left to go meet Mr. Hearne and I went back to my dressing table and finished taking off my makeup. My anxiety level began to increase and I felt a deep need to follow her. I picked up my coat and went down the stairs and around to the front of the house. It was very quiet. No one was there. I didn’t see Regina anywhere. I called out her name. It was then that I heard a faint cry for help.
Heart pounding, I ran into the theater. I could hear her cries clearly now.
“Lillian. Help! Help! Up here.”
I looked up and to my horror saw Regina dangling from the railing of the dress circle. Both her hands were wrapped around the lower railing and she was frantically holding on as tightly as she could. Immediately, I ran out to the lobby, up the stairs, through the double doors, and down to the railing of the dress circle. Regina was directly below me. I held out my hand.
“Take my hand, Regina.”
“I can’t. I can’t!”
“Try. Let go with one hand and I’ll grab it with both of mine.”
She let go but couldn’t reach my hand. She was now holding on with one hand and her body was swinging back and forth.
“I’m going to fall!”
Below her, Edward and Mr. Ferris came running up the aisle.
Edward shouted, “Regina, good God!”
“Edward, help me! I can’t hold on!”
“Regina, you must. Help is coming.”
“Help me, Lillian, Help me!”
“She’s letting go,” yelled Mr. Ferris.
Edward ran over to directly below where Regina’s body was suspended and reached out his arms, Mr. Ferris stood right next to him.
I watched helplessly as her hand lost its purchase on the railing. She screamed as she fell straight down and landed on top of Edward who knocked Mr. Ferris over. As she fell, Edward managed to pull her away from the back row of seats and they all fell into a heap on the carpet in the aisle.
I heard another scream, this one in pain.
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.