A Walking Shadow by Elizabeth Ireland #BookReview #BlogBlitz

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 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.

It's my pleasure to be one of today's hosts for the A Walking Shadow blog blitz. Many thanks to Elizabeth Ireland and to Rachel Gilbey from Rachel's Random Resources for inviting me and for my ecopy of the novel.

A Walking Shadow opens with a prologue which briefly introduces Irene Davenport, a celebrated actress who is making a return to Chicago, the city she despises and in which she began her career. Her opening night performance of Lady Macbeth is a triumph but the evening ends in a shocking tragedy which is observed by a young extra, Lillian Nolan, whose life is about to change in the most unexpected way.
The remainder of the book takes an epistolary form as the now eighty year old Lillian writes to her great-grandniece, Agnes who has insisted that she should record the events and memories of her life. It's a very cleverly used device to introduce what looks to be an unmissable series of A Backstage Mystery books. Lillian recalls her introduction to the theatre as  twelve year old, Rosemary Hampton when her beloved grandmother takes her to see a performance of Henry VIII in New York. One of the aspects of A Walking Shadow which I particularly enjoyed was the inclusion of real-life actors of Gilded Age and so here she admired Charlotte Cushman as Queen Katherine in what we learn was one of her many farewell tours. These little vignettes throughout the novel add a fascinating authenticity to the proceedings.
Her visit sparks a love of theatre which results in her being forced to make a devastating decision. The book is a reminder that acting was once viewed as a dishonourable choice of career with actresses in particular considered to be women of disrepute. It certainly wasn't a job for a young woman from a wealthy, reputable family and the fear of scandal leads her parents to take drastic action. In deference to their wishes, she takes the stage name of Lillian Nolan but their extreme reaction doesn't dim her desire to be on the stage.
Her grandmother remains supportive and it is through her that she gains her first role in a play but it is a steep learning curve for the young woman. In those days touring companies had limited engagements with local actors being employed to fill in the majority of the company. They were expected to learn their lines and the stage business according to the star's demands, often with limited rehearsal time. Nevertheless, Lillian is thrilled to be given her first role as the Gentlewoman in Macbeth, especially as it allows her the opportunity to watch the immensely talented Irene Davenport at such close quarters. However, she soon becomes much closer to Irene than she could ever have imagined as she discovers she has spiritual abilities which lead to her reluctant introduction to the paranormal world. Lillian agrees to what looks like an amazing opportunity - if she attempts to solve a murder, she will be assisted on stage and allowed to shine in a way no new actress could ever dream to achieve. It's an irresistible proposition but ultimately leads her into dangerous situations as she ventures into the darker underbelly of Chicago's society.
The action is allowed to unfold gradually until the truth is finally revealed and I really enjoyed Lillian's asides to her great-grandniece and her recollections which often led her to wandering from the point of her letter but which ensure it reads as a realistic missive from one relative to another. Readers are given a real insight into theatrical life; the various egos at play, the enduring superstitions and the  terrifying, compelling exhilaration of being on stage. It effortlessly evokes the attitudes and societal mores of the time and the incorporation of actual events works really well and offers further drama towards the end of the novel. I thoroughly enjoyed A Walking Shadow, it is an engrossing supernatural murder mystery interlaced with engaging historical fiction and I look forward to reading the next story in the series, Foul Deeds Will Rise very soon.

A Walking Shadow can be purchased from Amazon UK or Amazon US.

Don't miss the rest of the blog blitz, details are below.

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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About the A Backstage Mystery series

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.