Floats the Dark Shadow
In 1897, painter and feminist Theodora Faraday has lived for a year in Paris. Encouraged by her poet cousin Averill Charron, Theo passes time with the Revenants, a group of poets and artists who focus on death and darkness. In other chapters, we see a character who believes himself to be the reincarnated soul of Gilles de Rais, Jeanne d’Arc’s knight who turned to the devil after her martyrdom and began to rape and murder innocent children. Inspector Michel Devaux of the Sûreté is asked to investigate the kidnapping of children in Paris; often their disappearances are accompanied by the mark of a black cross with wings, which Devaux eventually learns is the mark of medieval murderer Gilles de Rais. Many of those being abducted are children Theo knows, and she works with and against Devaux: One of the inspector’s prime suspects is Averill, who Theo is in love with and cannot believe would harm children. We readers know the murderer could be Averill, but he could just as well be Averill’s father, or any of the Revenants, and suspicion cleverly moves among the group like a dark fog.
The mystery is gripping, the crimes loathsome, and the suspense intense. The sexual assault and torture of children are illustrated in detailed bits and scattered throughout the novel, hard to read, but effective in their psychological portrait of the villain. Fey’s writing is gorgeous: she evokes the sights and smells of Paris and poetically presents the darkness and horror that plague tormented souls.