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?
Character Interview with Chancellor Trawley Wellington
Aloha Chancellor Wellington, and thank you for stopping by Island Confidential. Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
Dr. Trawley Wellington here. Pleasure to visit today—appreciate the invitation. As the chancellor of Stonedale University, I am very busy and important. Also, I have excellent taste in ties.
I hear it can be lonely at the top. Do you have a best friend or confidante at Stonedale?
My executive assistant who sends out my important paperwork and schedules my important meetings. For some reason, people don’t stay in the position very long…I can’t imagine why. But I have high hopes for my current assistant, Pearl. Or maybe it’s Polly. Something with a “P,” anyway. I just push the buzzer on my desk when I need her.
Is there anyone you don’t get along with so well?
Lila Maclean from the English department. Whenever there’s trouble on campus that will inevitably require my attention, Dr. Maclean seems to be involved. She’s solved a mystery or two, I’ll give her that—but that’s not what we hired her to do.
Just between you and me: What do you really think of your author?
I’m far too busy and important to think about her. I’m the chancellor.
What’s next for you, Chancellor Wellington?
Redecorating my office.
The Spirit in Question
I’m always on the lookout for a lighthearted academic mystery. With a touch of the paranormal (or so it seems…), 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.
Tolliver Ingersoll is a pompous playwright whose three-hour chef d’oeuvre, Puzzled: The Musical features a duet between Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie, a swing dance set to a tune called Waiter, I believe I Ordered the Red Herring, and a protagonist named…Oliver Zingerzoll (who is in no way a stand-in for Tolliver Ingersoll).
But it’s not all fun and square-dancing femmes fatales. Not everyone is happy about the upcoming musical. The Stonedale Historical Society seems poised to throw a spanner into the works mere weeks before Zingerzoll–I mean, Ingersoll’s musical opens. And the Stonedale Opera House’s resident ghost might not be too happy about the production either.
Now throw in a driven director, a craven chancellor (see above), a freelance psychic, and an implacable preservationist, add some mysterious thefts and “creative differences,” and you can be sure that murder won’t be far behind.
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. Her work has appeared in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Literary Mama, Copper Nickel, Prick of the Spindle, Mama PhD and other publications. She teaches English at Metropolitan State University of Denver and serves as president of Sisters in Crime-Colorado. Visit her at cynthiakuhn.net or @cynthiakuhn.