The Wardrobe Mistress by Patrick McGrath
It is January, 1947. The war has been over for two years. London’s in ruins, there’s nothing to eat, and it’s the coldest winter in living memory. To make matters worse, one of the great stage actors of the day, Charlie Grice, has suddenly died. His wife Joan, the wardrobe mistress, is prostrate with grief. She’s persuaded to attend a benefit performance of his last play, and watch an understudy in Charlie’s role. She dreads it.
But when the actor appears onstage, the grieving widow is startled to see that behind the new man’s eyes burns the living spirit of her husband. Later, backstage, she meets this actor, and yes, Charlie’s coming through. There’s no doubt in her mind. She’s giddy with elation.
She befriends the young actor. She starts to give him Charlie’s clothes. The friendship soon becomes a love affair, Joan all the while seeing within the understudy the living ghost of her husband.
Then one night, by chance, as she goes through Charlie’s wardrobe, she uncovers his horrifying secret. She’s devastated. For the war’s not over, after all, and the wardrobe mistress finds herself plunged into a dark new world of violence, intrigue and heartbreak.
A haunting novel about grief, love, secrets and fascism from the bestselling author of Asylum, Trauma and Spider.