Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Book Review: The Spirit in Question by Cynthia Kuhn (Lila Maclean #3)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Halloween spirit, characters
Cons: Plot appears to wander at times
The Bottom Line:
Rehearsal murder
In theater with a ghost
Fun Halloween book

Murder in the Haunted Theater

The calendar has turned from September to October, and that means we are fully immersed in fall with Halloween just around the corner.  If you are looking to get into the spirit of that holiday, then you need look no further than The Spirit in Question, the third Lila Maclean Mystery from Cynthia Kuhn.

This semester, Lila is assisting with a theater production on the campus of Stonedale University, where she teaches.  The play in question is Puzzled: The Musical, a musical from colleague, Tolliver Ingersoll, under the direction of Jean Claude Lestronge, a famous director who is visiting the university for the semester to do some research.  Rehearsals are a struggle since Jean Claude is trying to find a way to make the play work despite some interesting choices by Tolliver.  And that's before someone is shot during a stage blackout.

Then Lila starts to hear rumors of the ghost of the theater and the history of something that happened 25 years ago.  As rehearsals continue, Lila begins to wonder if maybe the theater really is haunted.  Does what happened in the past explain the modern murder?  Or is there a much more modern motive?

This book really is hard to tease because there is a lot going on, but it's only when I started to think about the plot to write my teaser that I realized just how much is involved in the book.  As I was reading it and the plot was unfolding, it all drew me in.  This does mean that the murder takes a back seat to other storylines at times, but this is nothing new for the series.  As we draw near the end of the book, we begin to see how all the pieces are coming together for a logical climax that wraps things up and completely satisfies.

Maybe it's because of everything else going on in the book, but we don't see as much of the usual series regulars as I would have liked.  That's a minor complaint since the various plot elements combine to give us a vast collection of new characters.  All of them are sharp enough to help us remember how they fit into the story as it unfolds, and they make us care about the outcome.  As always, Lila is a strong lead character.

I'm got to say, I wish I could see the play that Lila was involved in over the course of the book.  As a general rule, we only get to see a few problem scenes that play into the happenings in the plot, but the teases we do get of the rest of the play make it sound like a ton of fun.  Whether intended by Tolliver or not, the book's author Cynthia Kuhn has turned it into a loving spoof of the genre we love so much - mystery.  The song titles alone are enough to make you laugh.  I think we demand that Cynthia's next writing project should be creating this play.

If you are looking to get into the Halloween mood, you'll definitely want to pick up The Spirit in Question.  It's a fun mystery filled with plenty of atmosphere.

Study up with the rest of the Lila Maclean Mysteries.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.


  1. Thank you so much for reading and sharing your thoughts, Mark! Really appreciate it. And...hmmm...now I kind of want to write that play!