The Purple Shadow by Christopher Bowden

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The Purple Shadow by Christopher Bowden

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Investigating the provenance of a striking portrait of a woman takes Colin Mallory from Paris to London to Sussex and back to Paris again. A mystery with a tinge of the supernatural, combined with sharp observation, makes The Purple Shadow a compelling read. Christopher Bowden popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 160 Date: September 2016
Publisher: Langton & Wood
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 0955506743

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Colin Mallory is a young actor in Paris. Colin had been working with a theatre company putting on English language Shakespeare productions. They were popular but unprofitable so Colin is now at a loose end while his partner, Bryony, is off shooting a film. Before returning to London, Colin meets up with Paul Barnard, an art gallery director and his sister's partner. At the Galerie Marion Ducasse, Colin and Paul come across a painting. The portrait of a young woman turns out to be Sylvie Ducasse, the great-aunt of the gallery's owner.

The painting is striking and captivating - almost like another Mona Lisa. The young woman gazes outward and holds the attention of the viewer. But there is a curious shadow at her feet, which suggests that the painting was once much larger. Why would it have been cut down in this way? What was removed? And why, as Madame Ducasse relates, was the portrait hidden away for so many years?

Something, not least a power that seems to emanate from the portrait itself, implores Colin to investigate the painting's provenance. His journey to do just that will take him from Paris to London, to Sussex, and back to Paris again. And while he does, he notices that the purple shadow seems to subtly change shape and hue, and Sylvie's expression changes almost imperceptibly...

The Purple Shadow is Bowden's fifth novel. Each has a colour in the title and here, it's the mysterious shadow in the painting which provides the supernatural flavour of the book. Don't think of it as a supernatural novel though - at its heart, it's a mystery with the painting as a key that unlocks a long-lost love story. In addition to colour themes, Bowden also has developed characters and relationships who flow between his novels. Here, Colin is the brother of Clare, protagonist in another of Bowden's novels.

You're drawn into the narrative immediately by the vivid description of a startlingly captivating painting and, as a reader, you're as invested in getting to the bottom of the mystery as the main character is. Bowden is a sharp observer and I loved his descriptions of Paris and London and Sussex and the people who live in both city and country. The novel also spends time describing the lives of jobbing actors and the British film industry in the 1930s. This may be fiction but you feel, as you read, that it comes from a place of knowledge.

In the end, the mystery in The Purple Shadow comes down to the possibility of enduring love. To discover whether or not Colin Mallory finds it to be so, you'll need to read the book!

You should also look at The Green Door, also by Bowden, and another novel with a slightly supernatural feel, this time focusing on an antique locket.

Bookinterviews.jpg Christopher Bowden about 'The Purple Shadow' was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.

Buy The Purple Shadow by Christopher Bowden at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Purple Shadow by Christopher Bowden at

Buy The Purple Shadow by Christopher Bowden at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Purple Shadow by Christopher Bowden at


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