Remain In Light is a mystery, but also contains elements of magical realism, poetry and film noir. Set in Paris in the late 1990s, the main characters could not be more opposite. Irène Laureux is a feisty, 69-yearl-old widow determined to find the man, Frederick Dubois, who knows the circumstances of her husband's mysterious death 30 years earlier. Helping in her search is American expat Martin Paige, a young, gay writer who has moved to Paris to get over a damaging relationship. I wanted to write a mystery that didn't play to the stereotypes of the macho, hard-boiled detective or beautiful forensic pathologist. Irène and Martin are flawed, average citizens thrown into extraordinary circumstances and must rely on their unlikely friendship and tenacity to solve a mystery that only grows deeper and more dangerous the closer they get to the truth. I also wanted to explore the underworld of Paris, the simmering xenophobia, class warfare and organized crime that is glossed over by the travel brochures.
Prologue: Time Ticks
Hands in motion. Fingers fly over letters and numbers, type out a message, a brief history of self, of time, of need and directionless desire. The screen bathes those hands in bruised light, flickers on a face in the darkness. A face grown two years older, forehead scarred by a bomb blast often hidden by blonde bangs and more tiny lines around the eyes behind glasses. There is an unmistakable tattoo on the left hand between the thumb and index finger: two interlocking crosses, equal but opposite.
Here is how the monster is kept at bay: he surfs through pornography, lurid images and chatrooms, searches for the lowest common denominator. There’s a picture of a beautiful young boy, only eighteen, on one side of the screen and an open dialogue box on the other. 17 Rue Ferrandi, the boy types. I am Thierry. What is your name?
He types back: Martin.
He leaves the apartment on rue Rampon silently, makes sure not to wake his roommate. But she is awake. She hears the almost imperceptible click as the laptop switches off; his feet pad down the
hardwood floor of the hallway. Then there’s the other click, the one that makes her mouth go dry with dread and disappointment. It’s the sound as the door softly opens and closes, a maneuver only she hears. Even the cat at the foot of her bed, with preternatural senses, sleeps through his leaving. These late night disappearances happen at least twice a week, and they’ve been going on for months. Every time he leaves, it’s still a surprise, as if it’s happening for the first time. She gets out of bed and opens the doors to the balcony.
It is late summer, the tourists have gone home, the city is quiet, but there is expectancy in the air, something or someone she cannot name. She feels it as intensely as when Martin Paige’s arrival was imminent just two short years ago. It is early morning; Venus is visible overhead. It rivals the moon for the sky. Irène Laureux leans on the balcony, the tattoo on her pale left hand in sharp relief against the metal railing even in the weak light. Equal but opposite – the same ink she shares with Martin. Irène looks up, summons the inevitable with words that have served her well in the past: Paris, Paris, Paris.