Stage Whispers flows from act 1 (The Turtle Boy) a very emotional story of innocence lost which introduces us to Timmy Quinn; through act 2 (The Hides) in which we learn more about The Stage and that this isn’t just a ghost story---there is much more at stake; on to act 3 (Vessels) which deepens and darkens the story immensely and where we learn that the vicious creatures on the Stage are not content to be “noises off” much longer and will soon rend the curtain entirely, cross the Stage and enter our reality; and finally to act 4 (Peregrine’s Tale) which serves as a pause to Timmy’s story, and introduces us to characters who had merely been behind the scenes up to that point, and ends with a shock to set up what is sure to be a cataclysmic act 5.
This work (what do you call a series of novels that collectively have the structure of a play?) is full of emotion. The images of rivers and bodies of water that, as did the river styx, serve as bridges between the living and the dead, resonate and leave after-images after the stories are completed. These characters, especially Timmy Quinn, are well drawn and you feel for them. The reader is not just cringing from a monster; we are horrified because we are moved by the characters and are affected when they suffer, especially in Vessels when the hungry ghosts make it much more personal for Timmy. The creatures of the Stage, and their familiars, especially the carnivorous turtles, are dangerous and become more and more aggressive and free to move about the world with each act of the play as the holes in the curtain become broader. By the time we get to Vessels, Timmy’s days of the safety of being merely an unwilling spectator, much as an audience is protected from the carnage on the Stage, are gone. The curtain is falling apart and we are all about to wind up a part of the action.
Act 4, Peregrin’s Tale provides the set up, with another tragic tale of a different young boy, for what is to come. With the final bombshell at the end of act 4 we have enough tension, and enough unanswered questions, to whet our appetite for act 5—The Nemesis. As any good Shakespeare scholar knows, act 5 is the showdown and this promises to be a good one. In the meantime, I will just mill around the lobby a bit, look at a poster or two, get a drink maybe, and wait for the call that announces that the final act is about to begin.