By JENNIFER PERRY
Remain in Light
Vanilla Heart Publishing, 2012
The narrator of Remain in Light, Collin Kelley’s sequel to his popular first novel Conquering Venus, is like a stowaway. Kelley takes you so close to the sights, sounds, smells and even thoughts of his characters that you may hear Martin, Irène and Diane breathe as you shadow them through the complicated depths of their needs and hurts, their personal knowns and unknowns, their questions, searches and private shames. Answers lead to more questions, discoveries to unfathomable mysteries. The novel depicts deception among friends, lovers, detectives and, of course, that old reliable monster — self-deception.
The story begins in 1995, with the car crash in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel that shocked the world into mourning. Martin Paige has left his life in Nashville and has settled in with Irène Lemieux as his roommate. Irène has secured a position for Martin as an editor with the publishing house where she works, and in her apartment they work on manuscripts.
David McLaren, the student Martin fell in love with two years earlier, has yet to resurface. They met when Martin signed on to help his teacher friend Diane chaperone students on a trip to Paris.
Meanwhile, Martin has begun a relationship with Euan McEvoy, who lives across the hall from Irène. A British ex-patriot and a bit older than Martin, Euan owns The Anglophile, a bookstore on the Left Bank where Martin hosts an open mic for poets.
When the well-connected Euan is asked to walk in the funeral procession for his beloved Diana, Princess of Wales, he arranges transportation and lodging for Martin and Irène to join him in London to watch the procession.
Just before Martin and Irène leave for London, Diane appears unexpectedly, running from her own demons in the states. Those demons express themselves in verbal bites and general sourness, which mixed with the friction between the two women guarantees a literal joyride from Paris to London.
Back in Paris the three continue seeking the answers and truths for which their souls ache, hitting on missed cues, mistakes and lies like desperate folks spending their last dime on a fake fortune teller.
There follows a revolving door of detectives watching our crew — watching Diane and Martin for signs of David; investigating a burglary in Irène and Martin’s apartment; and one hired by Irène to trace Frederick DuBois for the answers to her husband’s death.
Remain In Light, skillfully paced, is an emotional thriller in a romantic and beautiful setting.