The Purple Shadow
In the years before the war, Sylvie Charlot was a leading light in Paris fashion with many friends among musicians, artists and writers. Now she is largely forgotten. Spending time in Paris during a break in his acting career, Colin Mallory sees a striking portrait of Sylvie. Some think it is a late work by Édouard Vuillard but there is no signature or documentary evidence to support this view.
The picture has some unusual qualities, not least the presence of a shadow of something that cannot be seen. Perhaps the picture was once larger. Colin feels an odd sense of connection with Sylvie, who seems to be looking at him, appealing to him, wanting to tell him something. Despite a warning not to pursue his interest in her portrait, he is determined to find out more about the painting, who painted it, and why it was hidden for many years.
Colin’s search takes him back to the film and theatre worlds of Paris and London in the 1930s – and to a house in present-day Sussex. As he uncovers the secrets of Sylvie’s past, her portrait seems to take on a life of its own.
Author Bio – Christopher Bowden lives in south London.
He is the author of six colour-themed novels, which have been praised variously by Andrew Marr, Julian Fellowes, Sir Derek Jacobi, and Shena Mackay.
Social Media Links – https://www.facebook.com/christopher.bowden.90
Website – http://www.christopherbowden.com/
What starts as a gently-paced stroll through the backstreets of Paris, soon descends into an intriguing mystery. Colin Mallory, an actor currently between roles, is whiling away the hours in an art gallery only to receive an impromptu dinner invitation. With nothing much else to do, he can’t bring himself to refuse, and who can blame him? Over dinner, he takes an interest in a portrait and asks who the striking woman within it might be. Unfortunately, there is little known about the origins of the painting, only that the woman is Sylvie Charlot, a fashionista of the pre-war years.
As a creative person himself, Colin is a tad smitten with the painting, and especially intrigued by a purple shadow that seems to belong elsewhere. He feels compelled to know more about it, about the artist, and about Sylvie herself. This sees him looking through theatre archives for snippets of information, only to learn someone else has been asking similar questions. Now, there is no stopping him in his investigations which go on to uncover a love affair between Sylvie and a married man back in the 1930s. He digs deeper, asking staff at the house where he first spied the painting if they knew Sylvie, and subsequently learns the portrait may be half of a bigger picture.
Each time Colin learns a little bit more, he becomes ever more curious, and with someone else on the same trail, he’s convinced of a bigger mystery yet to be revealed. To say he had become obsessed would be no understatement, but as the reader, I was just as fascinated. The drip feed of information kept my attention, and before long I had finished the book.
Of course, along with the mystery and intrigue, the author beautifully describes the surroundings and the mood; it was like being on a personal, guided tour. The “shadow” itself lends a supernatural feel to the story which makes it both enchanting and gripping. Overall, a fascinating mystery with an old world style that is subtly addictive and hugely satisfying.
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