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.

 

 

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.

 

Extract

***

In 1875, Lillian Nolan, actress and sleuth, accompanies her friend and mentor, Regina Ellicott, home after the dead body of Regina’s husband is discovered in the dress circle after a performance of Hamlet.  Lillian is awoken during the course of the night by screams from Regina’s son’s room.

 

All of a sudden, the image of the man’s face I had glimpsed in the dress circle seemed to appear right before me. It was so real and so present that it could not be a dream. I thought if I could only open my eyes I would see him standing by my bed. But it was a scream that actually woke me and when I opened my eyes, I realized it had been a dream after all.

It was still very dark. For a moment I thought I had imagined the scream, that it had been part of my dream, a reaction to seeing the face of the man. And then I heard it again. I threw back the quilts and grabbed the afghan at the foot of the bed to wrap around me and stood up. I could tell now that it was coming from the room next to mine, the room that belonged to Charles.

I rushed over to his room and opened the door. He was thrashing back and forth in his dream and he had become entangled in his bedclothes. I went over to him and shook his shoulder.

“Wake up, Charles, wake up. You’re safe. You’re in your own home.”

His green eyes, so like his mother’s, opened and he stared at me, not comprehending.

“It’s all right, Charles, it’s Lillian. It’s Lillian.”

He gave a great sob and grabbed for me. I sat on the edge of his bed and took him in my arms and rocked him.

All he could say was, “I thought he came back. I thought he was here.”

“Who, Charles, who came back?”

He looked up at me, the terror fading from his face.

“Mr. Kincaid,” he whispered.

“It was just a dream,” I reassured him. “Mr. Kincaid is not coming back. Not ever.”

“Ohhhh.” He sighed and I felt his body relax.

I eased him back down into his bed and straightened his covers. Before I could say another word, he was asleep, this time looking quite peaceful. Why did Charles fear Mr. Kincaid so much? What had happened to him?

Thank you, Elizabeth Ireland and Rachel’s Random Resources.

 

About the author

Elizabeth Ireland discovered her passion for theater early. After receiving undergraduate and graduate degrees in Theater, 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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