Forms of Things Unknown by Elizabeth Ireland #BookReview #BlogBlitz

Recently returned to Chicago after a successful tour of Hamlet, Lillian Nolan is awakened in the dead of night by a strange voice. She is shocked to learn that well known and admired actress, Louise Hawthorne, has fallen to her death from the sixth floor of the Tremont House. Was it an accident? Did she jump or was she pushed? Louise’s former lover, and the main suspect, pleads with Lillian to uncover the truth and clear his name.
In the process of learning to trust her intuitive abilities, Lillian attempts to find balance between relying upon her gift and uncovering the truth in her own way. But the menace of death pursues her and soon her own life is at risk. When she finds herself in a trap from which she cannot escape, her only hope of survival is to call upon the metaphysical world.
Forms of Things Unknown is based on an actual event which occurred in June of 1876 in Chicago. It is the third standalone book in the Backstage Mystery Series. 

It's my pleasure to be taking part in the blog blitz for Forms of Things Unknown by Elizabeth Ireland today. Many thanks to the author and to Rachel Gilbey from Rachel's Random Resources for inviting me and for my digital copy of the novel.

Forms of Things Unknown is the third book in Elizabeth Ireland's Backstage Mystery series and as with the previous books, takes its title from the Shakespeare play, Lillian Nolan is performing in. This time she is playing the part of Hermia in A Midsummer Night's Dream, returning once more to her home city, Chicago for the play's run.
As historical murder mysteries, there are always links to true events in these books; the Great Fire of Chicago was an integral part of A Walking Shadow and in Foul Deeds Will Rise, the financial Panic of 1873 looms large. However, in Forms of Things Unknown, it's a rather more personal tragedy, the real-life death of a celebrated actress of the times, Louise Hawthorne which inspires the story. Although, of course, Elizabeth Ireland has fictionalised what happened, the bare bones of the case are factual. Louise Hawthorne really did plummet to her death from the sixth-storey window of her room at the Tremont Hotel in Chicago and upcoming theatre idol, James O'Neill was reported as having ended their relationship that night whilst also rumoured to have been the last person to see her alive.
James - or Jimmy - O'Neill was introduced in the previous book and had a brief dalliance with the series' main character, Lillian Nolan. It is Lillian's help he seeks after Louise's tragic death; declared an unfortunate accident by the coroners, he claims to be convinced she was murdered. However, with the theatrical rumour mill in overdrive, is he really hoping to deflect the finger of suspicion currently pointed very firmly in his direction?
Lillian's spiritual abilities will be required again if she is to discover the truth but although she is more relaxed about her gifts now, she is still resistant to really engaging with her guide, Robert and avoids spending time practising her spirit writing. However, I felt that this book will prove to be a pivotal point in the series, as later in the story she is forced to rely on Robert's help when she finds herself in terrible danger. It has already been fascinating to see how her character has progressed over the three books - from the naive novice in the first book to the experienced and much more confident young woman she has become here. She no longer wishes to live with her beloved grandmother when she stays in Chicago, preferring to reside in the Tremont House hotel. She relishes the freedom which comes from being an actress and therefore not tied by society's conventions as other young, unmarried women of the time were.  Readers are reminded of the very different perception of actresses back then and though Lillian's family have grown to accept her choice of career, to protect them from the potential scandals which could arise from her decisions to live as her own woman, she continues to use a stage name and to keep her professional and personal life separate.
I am thoroughly enjoying the Backstage Mystery series and although Forms of Things Unknown could easily be enjoyed as a standalone, I'm pleased I've read the books in order to truly appreciate not just how Lillian has changed but also how the other recurring characters respond and adapt to both her experiences and their own over the course of time. After a teasing glimpse of Jack  Martin at the end of Foul Deeds Will Rise, he makes a welcome return here although I can't help sensing a foreshadowing that things aren't perhaps all they seem with him. The authentic sense of time and place is once again a real highlight of the novel, particularly in the scenes set in the theatre and the captivating combination of the historical and paranormal together with the ongoing personal developments mean that  I'm intrigued to know more and look forward to the next book in this absorbing series.

Forms of Things Unknown 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.