While on maternity leave from Cambridge University and with her husband away handling a legal matter in Los Angeles, Professor Cassandra James meets her neighbor actress Melissa Meadows and her spouse Keith Kingleigh. Melissa and Cassandra share an affinity since both recently gave birth prematurely. Kevin is going to direct a production starring Melissa. He asks Cassandra to adapt the Victorian drama East Lynn, which she agrees to do.
As opening night beckons, Cassandra notices the cast seems extra nervous. Later an anxious Melissa calls Cassandra believing that someone is stalking her. Cassandra tries to calm her down. The next day Melissa fails to appear for a rehearsal so Cassandra goes to visit her. Melissa is gone without a word, but abandoned her six month old baby that she had shown so much love. With her own fussy infant at her side, Cassandra wonders what happened to her new friend while unable to contact Stephen, dealing with the abrupt arrival of her first husband, and Detective Sergeant Vickers suspecting the professor killed the actress.
STAGE FRIGHT, the second Professor James tale (see MURDER IS ACADEMIC), is a fabulous amateur sleuth mystery that builds up the suspense slowly so that the reader like the heroine suspects everyone's motives. Either foul play occurred or Melissa had played the role of a loving mother, but Cassandra cannot find a motive for either scenario while the evidence points towards her so that even the audience will believe she harmed or murdered the actress. This is a fantastic English mystery in the Christie tradition.