A cryptic note hidden inside a second-hand book sends Hugh Mullion on an obsessive search for its previous owner. Along the way, he uncovers secrets that have lain hidden for sixty years and shatter his views of the certainty of the past.
In a nutshell, the plot of The Blue Book, the first of my series of literary mysteries, each with a colour in the title, praised variously by Andrew Marr, Julian Fellowes, Sir Derek Jacobi and Shena Mackay.
I chose blue for the first simply because the book at the heart of the story had a blue cover but I realised that colours had wider title possibilities so I have developed that approach. Each colour is related to objects or places or themes in the books themselves.
For example, in the second book (The Yellow Room), there is an actual room of that name in the country house that features but the novel also explores other associations of yellow, such as sickness and cowardice, as well as the exuberance of a brighter shade.
The third book was The Red House and with that I completed the primary colours. No connection with the famous William Morris Red House at Bexleyheath but a fictitious building on the East Coast in which a curious troupe of actors are brought together, with or without their consent, to perform plays that have no audience.
On to the secondary colours. The Green Door was first out of the traps, named for the cottage with a green door in which an errant fortune teller goes to ground but also involving paintings of it and symbolising the return to childhood that is part of the story.
A fifth book - The Purple Shadow - is due to be published in the autumn. The shadow in question appears in a long-lost painting discovered in Paris, a shadow of something or someone that is not there. Perhaps the picture was once larger? Watch this space!
Orange could be next but it is not an easy colour to work with. I need to avoid a title that sounds like a children’s book or science fiction or gives rise to thoughts of citrus fruit. Suggestions welcome.
I call the books a series but each one is free-standing so there is no need to start with the first. There are some common characters and underlying themes. For example, they involve searches triggered by items found or lost unexpectedly.
The note in The Blue Book, an old country-house guide with some photographs slipped inside (The Yellow Room), a sketch of an actress found in a market (The Red House), a Victorian mourning locket lost in a fortune teller’s tent (The Green Door)
The influence of the past on the present is another theme, not least the potential for chance occurrences to change people’s lives and thus the future too. An unexplained death in 1887, another in the mid-1940s, events at the country house and abroad in the 1950s: all forgotten or suppressed or explained away but resurfacing years later with unexpected consequences for those having to pick up the pieces.
To find out more about my novels, please visit: www.christopherbowden.com