My first Christmas in the retail world was a blur of shoppers and twinkling lights, with a repetitive festive soundtrack that played all day in my ears and all night in my head. It was a welcome whirl. My boutique, All Things, was having an excellent holiday season and was on track for record sales, though the steady business the shop enjoyed every day afforded me little time to think about the gifts I would give my family and friends. I had even less time to consider what I would like to unwrap on Christmas day. There was one thing I was certain no one would be giving me, not even the magical Santa Claus: an acting role.
I hadn’t performed in months, not since the final day of filming on the soap opera I had starred on for more than thirty years. After a period of mourning the cancelled show and the end of my career, I settled into a new life in my Adirondack hometown of Barton.
My zero expectation for an opportunity to practice my craft made Gigi Swanson’s announcement sweeter than all the chocolate in the All Things’ display case. That’s where I was standing when Gigi, the founder and director of the Barton Community Theater, swept into the boutique and stormed the candy counter. I grabbed an empty box, ready to pack another order.
“I’m pulling you out of retirement, Veronica Walsh!” Gigi declared.
That didn’t sound like a request for a pound of chocolate truffles. “What?”
The BCT’s winter production would be Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit, Gigi explained. “And I want you to play Madame Arcati.”
The juicy part of the eccentric medium, not the tantalizing yummies right under my nose, made my mouth water. Angela Lansbury, Margaret Rutherford, and Geraldine Page had all played Coward’s famous psychic. And now the role was mine for the taking. Joy to the world, indeed!
I didn’t care it would be an amateur production and I wouldn’t be paid a penny for the three months of rehearsals and performances. I accepted Gigi’s offer in seconds and (here’s a sign of how happy I was) didn’t bat an eyelash when Claire, the boutique’s manager, pulled out a tray of chocolate-covered vanilla creams and suggested we celebrate by eating the inventory.
The production offered an exciting start to the new year. Instead of dreading the gray, snowy Adirondack days, I looked forward to venturing into the dark, cold nights for rehearsals in the barn the BCT had converted into a beautiful performance space.
The first week’s rehearsals went by like a dream. I became fast friends with my castmates and the crew. When Gigi asked my help with a bit of fundraising for the theater, I readily agreed to sign a few letters to sponsors and donors.
The task brought me to the theater office on a bright Saturday morning, with a song on my lips (off-key; thank goodness Blithe Spirit wasn’t a musical) and not a care in my heart.
My lighthearted mood darkened minutes after I pulled into the theater’s parking lot. I found Gigi not in the office, selling tickets and organizing promotion for the show, but lying on the ground behind the barn.
Dead, by a bullet shot into her heart.
Gigi’s death spread an eerie aura over the production and cast me in a second, all-too-familiar role. Onstage I’d be the delightful psychic Madame Arcati, while behind the scenes I’d play amateur sleuth to solve my director’s murder.
I should have stayed in retirement.
You can read more about Veronica in Cast For Murder, the third book in the “Veronica Walsh” mystery series. The first book in the series is All Things Murder.
Former soap opera actress Veronica Walsh is recovering from her first holiday season in the retail world when she is pulled from retirement to star in a community production of Blithe Spirit. Delighted to play the part of a medium, Veronica must soon also assume the role of amateur sleuth when she finds the play’s director shot dead behind the theater.
Teaming with stage manager Sophie Morrissey, Veronica’s hunt for clues to the murder of Gigi Swanson leads her to a cast of colorful behind-the-scenes characters and a stunning Act Three finale. Will it be a triumph for Veronica, or will the curtain close on more than her career?
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Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a paperback advance copy of Cast For Murder. U.S. entries only, please. The giveaway ends February 17, 2018. Good luck everyone!
About the author
Jeanne Quigley grew up reading mysteries, watching soap operas, and vacationing in the Adirondacks, never imagining these pleasures would be the inspiration for her Veronica Walsh cozy mysteries. Unlike the fictional Veronica, Jeanne has never been a soap opera star, but she has worked in the music industry and for an education publisher. She lives in Rockland County, New York and is a member of the Sisters in Crime. Readers can visit Jeanne at jeannequigley.wordpress.com.
All comments are welcomed.