Competition between two London theaters takes a deadly turn in a series debut.
Pre-eminent Shakespearean actor Henry Irving is such a trooper that even while recovering from a dose of poison, he insists on keeping his engagement at the Lyceum, to the disappointment of his understudy, Peter Richland. The Lyceum theater manager, Bram Stoker, and his personal assistant, Harry Rivers, know they are likely to get a better house with their veteran actor—and the managers of rival theater Sadler’s Wells know it, too. After Richland is struck and killed by a carriage, Stoker and Harry discover an empty coffin where Richland’s corpse ought to be. A severed head, falling stage equipment, a mysterious man from Haiti, symbols and artifacts beneath the Lyceum’s stage that suggest voudon rituals, and the possibility of a zombie in their midst add to the confusion. Harry, a young man from a humble background, is so dedicated to his work and so loyal to Stoker that he’ll follow him through hell or high water to solve the mystery and save the Lyceum. And he makes an appealing narrator of a tale that includes historical figures like Bram Stoker, Henry Irving, and Edwin Booth and brings to life the world of the Victorian theater.
With Bram Stoker as a character and the author’s proven interest in the otherworldly (Golden Illuminati, 2010, etc.), Buckland would hardly have omitted hints of the supernatural. However, the mystery could have stood on its own and might well have been stronger without the distraction.