Today I am excited to be part of the book tour for the Literary Mystery The Purple Shadow by Christopher Bowden, published by Langton & Wood. Today I have for you the book blurb, an extract and also some information about the author. So read on down.
A beautifully crafted, atmospheric and absorbing story with a strong sense of place and a compelling cast of characters. 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.
Extract from The Purple Shadow by Christopher Bowden
The rue du Chardonneret was a narrow street of seventeenth-century houses. A little austere and forbidding at first sight but, as Colin pointed out to Paul in the dwindling daylight, the pallid stonework was enlivened – his word – by balconies, rustication and elaborate carving. Madame Ducasse had an apartment at number nine. The entrance to the building was set in an archway, topped by a classical pediment. She buzzed them through high double-doors that gave on to a cobbled courtyard. A staircase to the right curved up to the first floor and the warm rectangle of light that framed Madame Ducasse. Her hair shone yellow-gold.
“Please. Call me Marion.”
She led them to a comfortable sitting room with tall windows that faced the street and the small park opposite. While she headed to the kitchen and her unseen assistant, Colin and Paul roamed with white wine and canapés, looking at pictures, furniture, ornaments. Etchings by Matisse and Picasso vied with caricatures by Gillray and Daumier and some Sonia Delaunay fabric designs, Braque engravings were nudging a still life by Chardin, a pair of Oriental vases flanked a Giacometti stick man. All this and much more identified by Paul, who declared the eclectic arrangement inspired. Colin found it hard to take in; he sank to a chair and stared at the painting above the marble fireplace.
It was the portrait of a woman in her mid-twenties, perhaps. He guessed from her dress, the style of her hair, that it was painted in the 1930s. She too was sitting in a chair in front of a fireplace, hands loosely knitted in her lap, a ring glinting on one finger. She was looking directly at him with a knowing smile and a hint of complicity. Or so it seemed. The effect was disconcerting.
“Paul. Have you seen this one?”
“Good Lord,” he said, negotiating his way between two tables shaped like kidneys. “It looks like a late Vuillard, though smaller than others I’ve come across.”
“Vuillard. Édouard Vuillard. Probably best known for interiors and domestic scenes. He focussed mainly on portraits in his last twenty years or so. He died during the war.”
“Do you notice anything about it?”
About the Author
Christopher Bowden lives in south London. He is the author of six novels, each with a colour theme. His books have been praised variously by Andrew Marr, Julian Fellowes, Sir Derek Jacobi, and Shena Mackay. Of his third novel, The Red House, Sir Derek said, “Very entertaining, cleverly constructed and expertly paced. I thoroughly enjoyed it.”
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All the best, Emma