Published by graham on Fri, 08/21/2020 - 12:29
'Limelight' is the fourth of the Enora Andressen thrillers. For newcomers to the series, here’s the plot so far.
Now in her early forties, Enora is an Anglo-Breton actress who’s made her name in the world of art-house movies. The launch title, Curtain Call, found her beset by the ugly collapse of a seventeen year-long marriage to Berndt Andressen, a Sandi screenwriter, and by the near-terminal diagnosis of an aggressive brain tumour. She emerged intact from both these traumas, and journied onwards through Books Two and Three. The latter, Off Script, took place in Exmouth, where Lin and I happen to live, and for me the temptation was to next expose Enora to a very different bunch of folk. Hence my choice of Budleigh Salterton, a comely little town along the coast.
One of Enora’s closest friends and neighbours in London has just retired. Her name is Evelyn Warlock, and she’s made her name in the world of London publishing. Amongst the many dates in her diary over the last few years has been the widely-acclaimed Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival, and she likes the town so much, she’s decided to sell up in London and move down. For their part, the organisers of the Lit Fest organise an evening event in St Peter’s Church as a kind of homage to one of the country’s leading and best-connected literary editors. Unused to public performance, Evelyn calls on Enora for moral support, and our heroine naturally says yes.
Evelyn’s event is a smash. The church is packed, and her many stories earn a standing ovation. In the glow of this success, Enora spends the weekend in Budleigh, and gets to know Evelyn’s new neighbours. Andy McFaul has spent most of his working life in mine clearance. A veteran of countless foreign wars, he carries the scars of his profession in the shape of a prosthetic leg, and a lingering web of facial injuries. His partner, Christianne Beaugarde, is an ex-nurse with Medecins Sans Frontieres.
Over a single weekend, Enora and Christianne, one half-French, the other fully French, become close. Christianne shows Enora around the little town. They share their separate stories, compare notes, drink endless coffee, and spend an evening in the pub. Before she leaves to return to London, Enora insists that her new copine must come up and stay a while, an invitation that Christianne never has the chance to take up. Why not? Because – within weeks – she’s disappeared without trace.
With a bunch of other women, Christianne has been an all-year-round swimmer. Normally, she and her buddies take the plunge first thing in the morning but on this September evening she’d gone swimming alone and never returned. Her partner, Andy, finds her clothes and towel in a neat pile on the Budleigh pebbles, and raises the alarm. A search is organised – helicopter, lifeboat, watchers on the clifftops, policemen scouring the tideline – but there’s no sign of Christianne. By now, Evelyn has become aware of one secret that her new friend had never shared: that she was suffering from Motor Neurone Disease, a cruelly incurable affliction that holds nothing but the certainty of an ugly death.
In some ways, this realisation makes Christianne’s abrupt disappearance easier to bear. According to her partner, Andy McFaul, Christianne knew what awaited her and had decided that enough was enough. Death by drowning, he believes, was inifinitely preferable to what MND had in store. Although he had no part in this act of voluntary euthanesia, Andy understood and sympathised with her decision.
But neither life nor death are ever simple. Autumn comes and goes. New Prime Minister calls the nation to the polls. And in early December, on election day, Enora awakes to find Budleigh Salterton all over the national news broadcasts. She stares at the screen, transfixed by a single image. Then the phone begins to ring. It’s Evelyn, her friend down in Budleigh. Please come down, she says. We’re all living through a nightmare.
'Limelight' will be published on Wednesday 30th September, but if you happen to live in the Budleigh area, pre-publication copies – discounted and personally signed - will be available from Budleigh Library, L’Image café, Best Books (18 The Parade, Exmouth), or through this website.