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Cursed in the Act

Cursed in the Act

1st Bram Stoker Mystery

Now available from Berkley Prime Crime

Set in London in 1881, at a time when Bram Stoker is Theatre Manager for Henry Irving, at the Lyceum Theatre. Henry Irving is poisoned but survives, leaving Stoker and his trusty assistant Harry Rivers to find out who tried to end the career of England's premier Shakespearean actor. All clues seem to point to members of the Sadler's Wells Theatre, always rivals of the Lyceum. But when Irving's understudy is killed, and then his body mysteriously disappears, events become far more complicated. The discovery of a secret hiding place beneath the Lyceum's stage, and evidence of Vodoun rituals, frightens Harry but intrigues Bram Stoker. Twists and turns lead Harry and Stoker across London and, when actress Ellen Terry's young son is kidnapped, place them all in jeopardy.

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The play was going well. The Guv'nor seemed to have regained most of his stamina and was charming the audience in his usual manner. They were eating out of his hand. I stood behind the Prompt and watched from the wings. Scene Three finished and I saw Hamlet, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern gathered opposite me, with Maurice Withers as Fortineras on my side of the stage waiting to go on. The lights were not dimmed for the brief scene change; it was a simple matter for the backdrop to come rolling down. There was a sudden gasp from the audience, followed by a scream from Edwina Price, the Prompt. The scream startled me since Miss Price normally never uttered a word during the performance unless called upon to prompt.

"Lights! Douse the lights!" someone responding faster than me shouted the order, but the lights remained burning steadily. I saw the reason for the commotion and leapt forward. As the backdrop unfolded, something that had been rolled up inside it came bouncing out. It was a severed human head!