A mournful French ghost haunts a London theater.
Small-scale theatrical producer and actress Penny Wintercraft-Hawkes is surprised and thrilled to learn that she has inherited a beautiful London theater from distant French aunt Marie-Therese, who attended Penny’s recent productions of three classic French tragedies. The unused Bellefield’s prime location has Penny dreaming of a less nomadic existence for her troupe. When she visits the building, she notices a pervasive foul smell but isn’t disquieted until the odor’s gone on her next visit. Meantime, Penny’s longtime lover, traveling musician/sometime contractor Ringan Lane, agrees to help with needed renovations. On their first visit together to the Bellefield, Penny hears muted French voices. Ringan does not, but when he’s thrown roughly from a ladder after a more insistent auditory assault, the couple is uncomfortably reminded of their encounter with ghosts the previous year (The Weaver and the Factory Maid, 2003). A little digging unearths the story of Eleanor, the Bellefield ghost. Still, plans for the inaugural production, Euripides’ Iphigenia at Aulis, proceed apace until Penny gets in hot water with investor David Harkins when he learns that she’s kept Eleanor from him. When workman Ray Haddon dies of a fear-induced heart attack, Penny knows she must release the ghost.
Welcome darker undertones expand the range of the debut’s refreshingly offbeat sleuthing, more focused this time on unraveling an academic puzzle than exposing a killer.