Sunday, 4 August 2013


Cri de Coeur

For some months now I have been working on a new crime thriller series. Eventually there will be six titles in all. The first four will be published this autumn

This one is called Cri de Coeur (number three in the series) and tells the story of a woman whose dreams lead to the exposure of a murder

What may interest readers is that the paintings of Paul Delvaux have played an important part in the writing of this book

Le canape bleu (1967)

Regular visitors to my studio and gallery will know how much I admire the work of this Belgium Surrealist whose paintings have a dreamlike quality

Paul Delvaux

The heroine of my story is a fifty-three-year-old art historian (Isabella) and a world authority on 
Paul Delvaux

It is not surprising, therefore, that her nightmares include images and characters from his paintings, and one in particular: L'Appel de la nuit (1938)

Please note that I have tinted this image yellow, which is how it appears in Isabella's dream.

This stunningly beautiful painting therefore makes its appearance in my new novel - but through the eyes of a troubled woman who believes that someone from beyond the grave is trying to talk to her!

Here then is that scene from Cri de Coeur:

‘The ravelled sleeve of care’

The room was large, very large, with a high ceiling and tall windows on one wall, overlooking extensive gardens - except that  the glass was covered in whitewash, partially obscuring the view. The entire room was white, including the floor. There was no furniture or carpets. In fact, it was completely bare. Even the chandelier had vanished. Although it was difficult to ‘place’ this room, Isabella felt that it was perhaps Georgian. She based this assumption on the quality and extent of the elaborate cornice and other decorative work on the ceiling. These too had been painted a brilliant white.

Isabella crossed to the window, rubbed a clear patch with the flat of her hand, and peered into the garden beyond.

It was not so much a garden as a rocky landscape, dotted here and there with trees. The trees had been cut back savagely, leaving short, stubby branches from which only a thin, leafless twig sprouted. The entire landscape was suffused in yellow light. A range of low, rocky hills separated the foreground from a saffron sky. These hills were bare, devoid of all vegetation. To one side, only partially visible from where she stood, was a small, single-story building. It was made of stone and had neat, red tiles on its roof. There was a stone door but little else to say what function this building served.

The most remarkable aspect of this ‘landscape’ was the nude figure of a young woman occupying the foreground. She was standing, facing Isabella but her naked torso was turned slightly to her left, thereby showing her bare breasts to best advantage. It was not so much a pose as that of a static figure caught, momentarily, in the lens of a camera but ready, at any second, to move on. She had a full figure, rounded thighs and pubic hair. Her eyes appeared to be gazing, somewhat abstractedly, towards the ground to her left. It was not clear what she was looking at.

Apart from her nudity, the most remarkable aspect of this figure was her hair. It was not really hair but an abundant cascade of dense leaves that reached from the crown of her head to the stony ground upon which, bare-footed, she stood. The leaves were large, olive green in colour and resembled thick-leaved ivy. The weight of this extraordinary growth had forced her head back slightly. When she moved, you might imagine that these leaves dragged on the ground behind her, like a bridal train.

Isabella stepped back from the window and turned to face the door though which she had first entered this strange room. She had apparently left it ajar, for a long tendril had now inserted itself through the crack between the bottom of the door and the ornate, Georgian door-frame. It looked like the shoot of some kind of predatory, fast-growing plant - like Russian Ivy, perhaps - for it was visibly growing even as it rapidly moved across the floor towards her. Simultaneously, other stems appeared - some from the marble chimney place, others through smashed panes of glass in the tall windows. Some appeared as if from nowhere but all - at an alarming speed - were growing in size and converging on the figure of Isabella standing alone in the middle of the room.

It was when one tendril curled itself around Isabella’s ankle that she realised, for the first time, that she too was naked. Within seconds, other tendrils had clasped her body and were rapidly twisting and curling round her legs and thighs. She tried to move, to pull away, but the strands of ivy held her firmly rooted to the floor. Within seconds they had crawled up her body and had encircled her arms and shoulders. The last she felt, before she lost consciousness, was an excruciating pain as a particularly vigorous tendril wrapped itself around her bare throat and began to strangle her.

It was at this point that Isabella woke up.

For some time thereafter she lay in her bed, trembling violently - her new heart pounding as if to break. Her entire body was wet with perspiration, as was her ankle-length, cotton nightdress. She was exhausted, frightened and weak.

End of Extract

Copyright Mike Healey, 2013

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