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Speaker Series: Christopher Swann

In this gripping literary thriller, Shadow of the Lions, Christopher Swann will take you deep into the dark heart of privilege, secrets, and lies at an elite boys’ boarding school in Virginia. Atmospheric and full of twists, this accomplished debut explores the nature of friendship, betrayal, and whether it is possible—ever—to escape the past. Swann, an alumnus of a boarding school himself and now a teacher at a private day school, brings to his storytelling an insider’s knowledge of the world he creates here, the closed, overheated atmosphere of the elite Blackburne School. To RSVP, call 843-723-9912 or email dreutter@charlestonlibrarysociety.org

As the novel begins, it has been almost ten years since Matthias graduated from Blackburne, where his roommate and best friend, Fritz, vanished into the woods without a trace after the two boys had an argument. Matthias has long been haunted by the idea that he was somehow responsible for Fritz’s disappearance, and now he finds himself stalled, a professional failure, a bad boyfriend, an incomplete man. When he is offered the opportunity to return to Blackburne to teach English, he sees it as a chance to put his life back together. But once on campus, Matthias becomes driven to find out what happened to Fritz, caught up in events that begin to spiral swiftly out of control. Along the way, he must confront the shocking death of a student, Fritz’s powerful Washington, D.C., family, and the particular politics of a prestigious prep school.

“All stories have at their heart a mystery, a question to be answered,” says Swann. “The question at the heart of this book—what would happen if your best friend disappeared?—is one that haunts Matthias. But just as fascinating to me is what happens to the people left behind in the aftermath. What kind of shadow would such an event cast over your life?”

In the spirit of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, Shadow of the Lions is a smart mystery but also a late coming-of-age story of a broken man who must come to terms with his past to move on in his life.

Christopher Swann is chair of the English department at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School in Atlanta, where he has taught English for more than 20 years. He holds a PhD in creative writing from Georgia State University and has received honors from Georgia State University, Washington and Lee University, and the Heekin Group Foundations’ Tara Fellowship for Short Fiction. Learn more at christopherswann.com.