Hitchman’s debut novel blends the glamour of early cinema with a scandal-laden mystery, ideal for Francophiles or lovers of period settings.
In pre–World War I France, teenage Adèle Roux leaves behind her sister and her dull provincial life for Paris, determined to become an actress. Instead, she meets studio producer André Durand, who sets her up both as his mistress and as assistant to his wife, a famous, temperamental star. Living in their palatial home, Adèle is caught up in a growing love triangle with the couple. Still hoping for a film role, she angles for a better future even as she falls deeper into a dangerous affair that ultimately leads to a death. About 50 years later, a journalist investigates the scandal after a print of the lost film Petite Mort surfaces. She finds that almost nothing about the case is what it appears to be. The mood is stylish and dramatic. Hitchman repeatedly uses images of silver, white and gray to evoke the tones of an early film reel. The liberal use of flashbacks and cutaway scenes adds to the sense that this is a direct novelization of a lost movie. As advertised, there is a twist, though it's not particularly surprising since the groundwork is laid from the very beginning and breadcrumbs are sprinkled throughout.
More atmospheric than suspenseful, this is a dark and twisting story replete with unreliable characters as passionate as they are opportunistic.