Book Review

The Purple Shadow – Christopher Bowden

Today’s review is for literary mystery, The Purple Shadow, by Christopher Bowden. My thanks to Christopher for providing me with a copy of the book, and to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to be a part of the tour.


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 rt this view.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.


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Bowden Purple Shadow v3


Although this is the second book by Christopher Bowden that I have read, I must confess that I had forgotten what a skilled writer he is. He has a beautiful way with words that drew me in to the historic streets of Paris in a way that made me feel I was walking them with Colin. I have had the pleasure of visiting Paris on a couple of occasions, and reading The Purple Shadow made me wish I was back there, exploring all the wonderful spots that Colin discovers.

I could see Sylvie’s portrait so clearly along with the mysterious, potentially malevolent, purple shadow within it. The descriptions of this and the changing facial expressions give the portrait a Dorian Gray-esque character all of its own within the story. The whole mystery of the portrait felt like it could have been the plot of one of the noir films that Charles Kent starred in himself, and I loved the symmetry that this gave to the story.

The attention to detail in this book is wonderful and I enjoyed every second of reading it.


CHB 009Christopher 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.




Make sure you visit the other blogs taking part in the tour for this book.

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