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.
Paul walked to stand squarely in front of Theo’s canvas. She waited for his judgment. He stared at the windmill for a full minute. “Theo, this is superb. Startling, yet assured. Not a stroke too many.”
She had not expected that! Delight and pride surged through her. “Thank you.”
Then Paul shrugged. “Of course, the Salon will not hang it.”
Theo gave an exasperated laugh. “I have a year to create a painting to please us both.” Was it even worth the effort to please them? Mélanie, one of her good friends from the Académie Julian,had won a pitiful honorable mention for one of the most brilliant paintings at the Salon. But Theo knew her father would be overjoyed if she won even the smallest award.
“It is not Impressionist,” Paul said. “Certainly not Pointillist. More in the mode of a Synthetist….”
Theo didn’t understand the utter passion of the French to categorize everything. She didn’t care what school Paul picked for it, only that it moved him. Superb. Startling. She especially liked startling.
Matthieu was shifting nervously from foot to foot, so she quickly packed her paints and handed him the box. Working together, Casimir and Averill folded the easel. They divided the burdens then made a parade up and down the twisting streets, past the vineyard, and back up the rue Lepic. Suddenly inspired, Theo kept walking past her door to the alley. She’d warned Matthieu to be careful when out alone. He’d assured her he would be—in the swaggering tone of young boys who weren’t afraid of anything. “I met a detective here not long ago,” she told her poet friends. Let Matthieu listen in and be reminded without her having to sound like a mother hen.
“A detective?” Jules was horrified.
Paul frowned. “Asking about the bombing?”
“No, he was trying to find a clue to the disappearance of little Denis.” She glanced quickly at Matthieu.
Averill understood instantly. He looked only at her, so Matthieu’s boyish pride would not be injured. “Yes, Theo, you cannot be too careful in Paris. Especially at dusk. All sorts of dangerous people emerge from their lairs and stalk the streets.”
“You are right, but almost always I have someone to protect me.”
“It should be always,” Paul said gravely. “Beautiful women are at risk as much as careless boys.”
Casimir rolled his eyes at the petit drama she had staged. “Why did you did not tell us of your adventure before, Theo? Questioned by the police, no less.”
“I told him all I knew, but that was little enough,” she said sadly. Then memory jolted her. “He hasn’t talked to you?”
“To me!” Casimir exclaimed in faux horror.
“Yes, you took me to tea the evening Denis disappeared.”
“Tea? Ah yes…how corrupt of me,” Casimir murmured.
“Mademoiselle, I must get the sausage,” Matthieu reminded her.
“But of course. Thank you, Matthieu.” Theo took her paint box from him, and he ran off down the street. She wondered if she’d made any impression at all. The others followed Theo back to her apartment and deposited her things inside. Theo thanked them and asked when they would meet again.
“We are all attending Leo Taxil’s lecture, are we not?”
“Yes, I’m going.” Theo had been amused when Averill read aloud Taxil’s bizarre tales in the cafés.
Paul’s eyes gleamed with anticipation. “Even the Hyphens will attend such an extraordinary event.”
“Good.” Theo hadn’t seen them since the last meeting about the magazine, over two months ago. Les trois Traits—the three Hyphens—as Paul had dubbed them, were three slim, dark-haired poets named Jean-Jacques, Louis-Patrice, and Pierre-Henri. Professor, student, and fledgling lawyer, they were a bit more traditional than the other Revenants and sought out each other’s company in the Left Bank cafés.
“Taxil promises revelations of crazed satanic rites,” Casimir said, as if offering a sweetmeat.
Paul rubbed his hands together with theatrical relish. “A deliciously degenerate Masonic priestess who once consorted with demons will be there in person.”
Jules licked his lips nervously. “The High Priestess was redeemed when she spoke of admiring Jeanne d’Arc. The demons could not endure even the name and fled, leaving the High Priestess free.”
“It should be as entertaining as the Comédie-Française,” Averill said.
“You don’t believe Taxil’s tales of demons?” Casimir asked. “You who want to go to a Black Mass?”
“They’re far too amusing to be true,” Averill answered.
“No?” Paul challenged. “Surely demons amuse themselves—and with far less hypocrisy than humans.”
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Meet 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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