Book review: Elizabeth Ireland, A Walking Shadow

A Walking Shadow


A Walking Shadow

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 theatre, 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.

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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 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.


I really enjoyed this blend of a book, combining elements and characters of true history, with a really gripping mystery at the heart, centred around the apparently glamorous (to the outside) world of theatre. Except, actresses in the 1870s did not have the acclaim they do today, and when Rosemary / Lillian declares her ambition to be on the stage, her family are (quite rightly, really, in context) horrified.

But this is more than a tale of following dreams. At the start of the novel, we witness the death of Irene Davenport, and Lillian, through her additional powers, finds herself charged with finding Irene’s killer, in return for breath-taking skill on the stage.

The story is told in diary-form, and I did find the initial scene-setting slightly longer than it could have been, but once we got into the heart of the story, it was a real page-turner, and although I did pick up an inkling as to who the guilty party might have been, I didn’t grasp the full ending until the big reveal – just how I like it! And as a fan of ‘The Scottish Play’, I loved the quotes at the start of each chapter too.

About Elizabeth

A Walking Shadow Elizabeth Ireland

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.

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