Monday, October 8, 2018

"The Spirit in Question" by Cynthia Kuhn

The Spirit in Question
(Lila Maclean Academic Mystery Book 3)
by Cynthia Kuhn

The Spirit in Question (Lila Maclean Academic Mystery Book 3) by Cynthia Kuhn

The Spirit in Question is the third book in the Lila Maclean Academic Mystery series by Cynthia Kuhn. Also available: The Semester of Our Discontent and The Art of Vanishing (read my blog post).

The Spirit in Question is currently on tour with Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours. The tour stops here today for an excerpt and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

English professor Lila Maclean knew drama would be involved when she agreed to consult on Stonedale University’s production of Puzzled: The Musical.
But she didn’t expect to find herself cast into such chaos: the incomprehensible play is a disaster, the crumbling theater appears to be haunted, and, before long, murder takes center stage.
The show must go on - yet as they speed toward opening night, it becomes clear that other members of the company may be targeted as well. Lila searches for answers while contending with a tenacious historical society, an eccentric playwright, an unsettling psychic, an enigmatic apparition, and a paranormal search squad.
With all of this in play, will she be able to identify who killed her colleague … or will it soon be curtains for Lila too?

“Commence the murder!” Everything went dark, a shot rang out, and something crashed to the ground.
I held my breath, unable to move.
“No!” the man next to me yelled, disgusted. “The effect’s all wrong. Let’s reset.”
So we reset. For the twelfth time.
I honestly couldn’t tell the difference among any of them.
But the director Jean Claude Lestronge could. And that’s all that mattered. He was an intimidating man who had achieved a level of celebrity most of us couldn’t even imagine–globally recognized for his directing work, both on stage and screen. In many ways, he reminded me of a bear, with his large build and his dark, shaggy hair. Plus, when he was displeased, he roared.
“Are you sure you don’t want to let them run through the whole scene?” I ventured. “Maybe we could come back to this later.”
He turned to me, his thick eyebrows raised almost to the top of his head. “Did I ask for your opinion, Lila?”
“No,” I admitted. It was my first time working as a dramatic consultant, but so far, my contributions had been comprised of offering opinions that he ignored and telling him that his own decisions were brilliant.
While the crew scurried about, preparing for our next attempt to perform up to Jean Claude’s standards, I gazed around the Stonedale Opera House. Built in 1878, it was definitely showing its age. The ceilings still soared, but the gilded paint on the beams was chipped and the red velvet seats were downright tattered. On either side of a center aisle, the house rows angled sharply toward the wooden stage, which had several candle boxes set into the floor. Electricity was used nowadays—though every time a stagehand turned on the main lights by lifting the large metal lever protruding from the box, sparks shot out.
My thoughts were interrupted by the director’s loud voice. He was barking at everyone as he settled on the arm of the chair next to me. The table that had been placed in front of the first row lurched slightly when he slammed his clipboard down on top of it.
“Show me murder!” He thundered as though he were presiding over a gladiator event, and the theater went black again. A shot rang out, this time accompanied by a larger burst of light, and a loud thud was heard.
“Finally,” he said. He mumbled something else, but I ignored it. He was always muttering things under his breath. I’d often catch random syllables that I suspected belonged to French swear words—I’d studied the language in school, and one does acquire a certain amount of vocabulary not printed in textbooks but whispered from student to student.
The lights came up, the actors professed surprise, then broke into a rousing chorus of “Once the Body Drops, You’ve Got a Story.”
I watched as they performed the high-energy clog dance, more in unison than they’d appeared the previous week. Jean Claude sat through the entire number without stopping them, which was a first. Maybe he was realizing that it should be cut.
In fact, the whole play should be cut.
It was a disaster, from start to finish.
Puzzled: The Musical was the brainchild of Tolliver Ingersoll, a Stonedale University professor who once had a play produced off-off-off-off-Broadway and had somehow transformed that success into a tenure-track job at the same school where I taught English. From what I’d heard, the Theater department was less than enthusiastic about his work, but since he was a campus fixture, they had no choice but to every so often allow him to put on one of his plays. The local small theaters were more excited about his writing, as they were made up of younger folks who found his incomprehensible plotlines to be great fun.
[Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
“I'd like a front row seat for Puzzled: The Musical, please.” ~ G. Smith
“There is a lot happening in this book, and at times, the plot appears to ramble as a result. The murder definitely takes a back seat to some of the other things going on, but I never found myself getting board since everything was entertaining. And the various bits and pieces do begin to tie together the further we get into the book. Because we get so many new characters, we don't see much of most of the series regulars, but the new characters are all developed enough to make us care about the outcome, and Lila continues to be a strong lead. And the play! I was laughing at the little bits we did learn about it over the course of the book. Heck, the song titles alone are great. It looks like a fun spoof of the mystery genre that I would go see if I could.” ~ Mark Baker – Carstairs Considers
“I'm always on the lookout for a lighthearted academic mystery. With a touch of the paranormal, The Spirit in Question is a perfect October read. Kuhn's take on academic life is spot-on, and the theater theme adds intrigue and insight. […] The Spirit in Question is smart, funny, and engaging - another great Lila McLean mystery!

About the Author
Cynthia Kuhn writes the Lila Maclean Academic Mystery series: The Semester of Our Discontent, an Agatha Award recipient for Best First Novel; The Art of Vanishing, a Lefty Award nominee for Best Humorous Mystery; and The Spirit in Question. She teaches in Denver, serves as president of Sisters in Crime-Colorado, and blogs with Chicks on the Case.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win any two ebooks in the Lila Maclean Academic Mystery series by Cynthia Kuhn plus a $25 Amazon gift card.