The Empire came up on NetGalley’s list, and I liked the sound of it. With other celebrity authors, though, I’ve had trouble getting rid of their voice. Would Michael Ball be different? The only way to find out is to read it.
I have met the actor and spoken to him on several occasions, when he was just a West End leading man (he took over as the second Raoul in Phantom). With my heart elsewhere, I’ve watched his fanbase grow, so I’m sure this book will sell loads. The question is, is it a hit or a turkey?
by Michael Ball
Welcome to The Empire theatre
1922. When Jack Treadwell arrives at The Empire, in the middle of a rehearsal, he is instantly mesmerised. But amid the glitz and glamour, he soon learns that the true magic of the theatre lies in its cast of characters – both on stage and behind the scenes.
There’s stunning starlet Stella Stanmore and Hollywood heartthrob Lancelot Drake; and Ruby Rowntree, who keeps the music playing, while Lady Lillian Lassiter, theatre owner and former showgirl, is determined to take on a bigger role. And then there’s cool, competent Grace Hawkins, without whom the show would never go on . . . could she be the leading lady Jack is looking for?
When long-held rivalries threaten The Empire’s future, tensions rise along with the curtain. There is treachery at the heart of the company and a shocking secret waiting in the wings. Can Jack discover the truth before it’s too late, and the theatre he loves goes dark?
Musical theatre legend Michael Ball brings his trademark warmth, wit and glamour to this, his debut novel.
Enjoy the show! (goodreads)
Anyone who enjoys theatre or theatrical mysteries will be drawn to this book. It’s the 1920s, and men are returning from the great war, scarred and mutilated, whether you can see the damage or not. With nothing better to do, Jack tries for a job as a doorman at the theatre, knowing little about the theatre, and nothing about the power struggles going on in local business behind the scenes. Will the Lassiters comes to terms with the old lord’s death, will the new one take over the reins, or will he bodge his responsibilities like Jack knew he did in the war? There are plenty of secrets to be revealed!
Michael Ball writes with an assurance that shows he knows his plotting, his characters, and he loves them all. We love them all, even the baddies. The Empire is beautifully portrayed, with the life of an old theatre struggling to rekindle its glory days, and the many characters within it all hoping to hang on to their dreams. I found it amusing that in creating the musical that the cast hope will put them back on their feet, he describes a plot that has so many twists it is almost a parody of the book itself. Does it reflect the book’s plot, no. But it revisits old flames, uncovers hidden pasts, and reunites loves that went astray by accident or misadventure.
By modern standards, I think it is a slightly over-the-top cosy mystery. But it reeks of the 1920s, when excess was what everyone wanted, to escape from the horrors of the previous decade. So it becomes–very fittingly–a period piece, masterfully crafted. It’s a roller-coaster ride that keeps you on your toes, and brings you to an unexpected finish. Well… and the expected conclusion. And above all it’s great fun!
And I didn’t hear Michael Ball’s voice reading it at all. Full marks!Book Review | The Empire by Michael Ball 'writes with an assurance that shows he knows his plotting, his characters, and he loves them all.' A period price masterfully crafted #5stars #TheEmpire #netgalley Click To Tweet