Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Book Spotlight and Excerpt: Floats the Dark Shadow by Yves Fey


Young American painter Theodora Faraday struggles to become an artist in Belle Époque Paris. She’s tasted the champagne of success, illustrating poems for the Revenants, a group of poets led by her adored cousin, Averill.

When children she knows vanish mysteriously, Theo confronts Inspecteur Michel Devaux who suspects the Revenants are involved. Theo refuses to believe the killer could be a friend—could be the man she loves. Classic detection and occult revelation lead Michel and Theo through the dark underbelly of Paris, from catacombs to asylums, to the obscene ritual of a Black Mass.

Following the maze of clues they discover the murderer believes he is the reincarnation of the most evil serial killer in the history of France—Gilles de Rais. Once Joan of Arc’s lieutenant, after her death he plunged into an orgy of evil. The Church burned him at the stake for heresy, sorcery, and the depraved murder of hundreds of peasant children.

Whether deranged mind or demonic passion incite him, the killer must be found before he strikes again.

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The Concert in the Catacombs—Floats the Dark Shadow

A thousand candles burned in the darkness of the catacombs.

A thousand flames wavered, golden lights bending and rising with the doleful ebb and flow of the music.

Repelled and fascinated, Theo watched their flickering glow caress the curved domes of the skulls. Tinted by candlelight, the naked bones took on a sepia patina like sacred reliquaries carved from amber. A shiver swept her. Nothing—not her delight in the outrageous, nor the wickedly delicious thrill of the forbidden, not even the inspiration the images would bring to her art—nothing overcame her sense of oppression. They were deep in the earth. Room after endless room of bones surrounded them.

The black hollows of the eye sockets seemed to watch the concert as attentively as the audience of chic Parisians still clothed in mortal flesh and fancy silks, still breathing the dank, stifling air of the chamber. As the last notes of Chopin’s Marche Funèbre echoed, the gathering applauded with fervent solemnity, saluting the musicians’ skill and their own daring in coming here. Elegant in their tuxedos, the orchestra lowered their instruments with a flourish and rose, first bowing to their guests, then once again to their skeletal hosts. Theo smiled and clapped with them, fighting off her apprehension.

“They call this the Empire of Death.” Averill leaned close and Theo bent to meet him. In the eerie light, the smile hovering at the corners of his mouth shifted from sweet to sinister and back again. His breath caressed her face, and she caught a hint of absinthe. The scent churned up a chaos of emotion—concern, frustration, anger, yearning.

A pang of jealousy.

How perfectly Parisian, she thought, to be jealous of a liqueur.

When had his flirtation with the green fairy become a love affair? Two months ago, four? He called absinthe his muse, but she stole as much as she gave. Under her influence, Averill’s moods grew ever more erratic and his exquisite, fantastical poems ever more bizarre.

A fierce impulse surged through Theo’s turmoil—to paint Averill as he looked now, bitter and sweet, taunting and tender. She envisioned him almost emerging from the canvas. Strands of dark hair tumbled over his eyes, pale blue flames glowing too bright within the shadows. Patches of rose madder made a fever flush on both cheeks. Her fingers twitched eager to render mustache and beard in quick, narrow strokes of lamp black touched with indigo, a frame for the quick twist of a smile that mocked the world and himself.

Theo forced a smile in response. “The Empire of Death. So you’ve said.” “Three times at least, Charron,” Paul Noret sneered from the seat on her other side. “Before, during, and after your nightly tryst with the green fairy.”

Slouched in his chair, Paul looked too much at home in this underground kingdom, like a strange insect god, half man and half praying mantis. His body was long and bony, his face cadaverous. Shadows carved crescents into his lean cheeks and scooped out circles under his eyes, which bulged slightly, and glistened. His hair was prematurely grey, the color of ashes, and aged him a decade or more. Paul was thirty-four—thirteen years older than she was, and ten years older than Averill.

“You should sip the green ambrosia, Noret, and cavort with her yourself,” Averill said.

Paul scowled. “Absinthe rots the brain.”

“Ahh...but your poetry will soar."

“Not if your twig-bound twitters are any example.”

There was a heartbeat of silence. A stinging retort sprang to Theo’s lips, but she bit it back when she felt Averill’s light pressure on her arm. He leaned across her to taunt Paul in turn. “Twitters? When people hear twitters, they pause. They smile. They listen. If they hear barking, they shut their ears—or throw shoes.”

Paul examined his scuffed boots. “These were acquired just so. They cost but a single barking couplet.”

Theo relaxed, glad the jab had been too wide of the mark to cut Averill. They were all used to Paul’s forays but always en garde. They ignored him at their peril. What seemed to be a feint might suddenly pierce the heart. They’d look down to discover their idea, their verse—or their art—mercilessly skewered. But that same deadly skill made Paul chief critic to the group of poets and musicians who had invited Theo into their midst. Since the success of Le Revenant, Paul seemed to have doubled his criticism. Was it jealousy? Paul’s harsher poems had won praise too, but not as much as Averill’s. Perhaps Paul was forestalling vanity from the proclamations of Averill as the new Rimbaud, the new Verlaine.

Absinthe had destroyed Verlaine.

Averill gestured dramatically at the skulls crowning the wide pillar of tibias and fibulas. “We have set ourselves in the Empire’s heart, in the sanctity of the Crypte de la Passion.”

“It is so perfectly decadent,” Theo murmured. The word was a magic key that opened many intriguing doors in Paris. Yet when Averill nodded yes, another part of Theo’s mind whispered rebelliously, So perfectly horrible… So horribly sad….

“Yes.” Averill gave her another conspiratorial smile as if he heard and agreed with each silent pronouncement.

 Yves Fey


Yves Fey has MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Oregon, and a BA in Pictorial Arts from UCLA. Yves began drawing as soon as she could hold a crayon and writing at twelve.  

She’s been a tie dye artist, go-go dancer, creator of ceramic beasties, writing teacher, illustrator, and has won prizes for her chocolate desserts. Her current obsession is creating perfumes inspired by her Parisian characters.

Yves lives in Albany with her mystery writer husband and their cats, Charlotte and Emily, the Flying Bronte Sisters.

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