Authors: Simon Brett
Table of Contents
The Charles Paris Theatrical Series
CAST IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE
SO MUCH BLOOD
AN AMATEUR CORPSE
A COMEDIAN DIES
THE DEAD SIDE OF THE MIKE
MURDER IN THE TITLE
NOT DEAD, ONLY RESTING
WHAT BLOODY MAN IS THAT
A SERIES OF MURDERS
A RECONSTRUCTED CORPSE
SICKEN AND SO DIE
DEAD ROOM FARCE
A DECENT INTERVAL *
The Fethering Mysteries
THE BODY ON THE BEACH
DEATH ON THE DOWNS
THE TORSO IN THE TOWN
MURDER IN THE MUSEUM
THE HANGING IN THE HOTEL
THE WITNESS AT THE WEDDING
THE STABBING IN THE STABLES
DEATH UNDER THE DRYER
BLOOD AT THE BOOKIES
THE POISONING IN THE PUB
THE SHOOTING IN THE SHOP
BONES UNDER THE BEACH HUT
GUNS IN THE GALLERY *
THE CORPSE ON THE COURT *
THE STRANGLING ON THE STAGE *
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First published in Great Britain 2013 by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of
9â15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.
First published in the USA 2014 by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS of
110 East 59th Street, New York, N.Y. 10022
eBook edition first published in 2014 by Severn House Digital
an imprint of Severn House Publishers Limited
Copyright Â© 2013 by Simon Brett.
The right of Simon Brett to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Brett, Simon author.
The Strangling on the Stage. â (A Fethering mystery; 15)
1. Seddon, Carole (Fictitious character)âFiction. 2. Jude
(Fictitious character: Brett)âFiction. 3. Fethering
(England: Imaginary place)âFiction. 4. Women private
investigatorsâEnglandâFiction. 5. Murderâ
InvestigationâFiction. 6. Shaw, Bernard, 1856-1950
Devil's discipleâFiction. 7. HangingâFiction.
8. Detective and mystery stories.
I. Title II. Series
ISBN-13: 978-1-78029-056-0 (cased)
ISBN-13: 978-1-78029-542-8 (trade paper)
ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-472-0 (ePub)
Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.
This ebook produced by
Palimpsest Book Production Limited,
Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.
The Art of Coarse Acting
nd the trouble is,' said Storm Lavelle, âit's just total murder.'
âWhat is?' asked Jude.
âMy life. Everything.'
Storm Lavelle was stretched out on the treatment table in the front room of Woodside Cottage in the seaside village of Fethering. It was February, cold outside, but snug with the open fire in Jude's front room. The scent of aromatic candles on the mantelpiece mingled with the smell of burning wood.
Storm had in theory come for a healing session, though Jude knew by experience she was basically there to unload the latest aggravations of her life. Which was fair enough. Jude also knew that listening was frequently as effective as any other form of healing.
The irony was that Storm Lavelle also practised as a healer, and she was the ultimate example of where the âhealer, heal thyself' principle broke down. Though very good with her clients, impressing them with her calm and stability, Storm was actually as mad as several container-loads of frogs. Her volatile personality ensured that she skittered from one alternative therapeutic cure-all to another. It was remarkable that she'd stuck with the healing, though it was now only as a practitioner rather than a patient. Storm had long since decided that healing was inadequate to her own needs, and embarked on courses of reflexology, kinesiology, homeopathy, naturopathy and any other âologies' or âopathies' that came to her attention.
She had also dabbled in a wide range of leisure activities. Many of these were fitness-related. Within the previous couple of years Storm had, to Jude's knowledge, tried Aerobics, Aqua Aerobics, Padel Tennis, Pilates and Zumba. She had also taken up macramÃ©, bird watching and bridge, and joined a choir.
None of this worried Jude or stood in the way of the two women's friendship. Her attitude to her fellow human beings reflected a line that had once been quoted to her, the view of someone called Joe Ancis that âthe only normal people are the ones you don't know very well'. And beneath all Storm's traumas and dramas, Jude could recognize an honest, caring person whose only fault â if indeed it was a fault â was to get both too deeply and too shallowly involved with everything.
This applied particularly to Storm Lavelle's love life. As with alternative therapies, she also skittered from relationship to relationship. And in each one she made the same error, believing wholeheartedly that at last, after all of her past failures, she had found the perfect man on whom to lavish all of her affection. Invariably the men, frightened by the intensity of this passion, soon wanted to disengage. And Storm's heart would be broken once again.
It wasn't that she was unattractive, far from it. She was in her forties, some ten years younger than Jude, but unlike her friend, didn't carry a spare ounce of weight anywhere. This was partly due to the cocktail of diets and health fads that she followed, but the traumas of her frequent break-ups also played their part. She had innocent, pained blue eyes and was a natural blonde, though that original colour was very rarely in evidence. Storm was as fickle with new hairstyles as she was with everything else in her life.
That day her hair was cropped short and coloured a striking aubergine. She was dressed in black leggings and a sloppy yellow T-shirt. The precision of her make-up made her look almost like a geisha girl.
Jude sometimes wondered where her friend's name had come from. Surely no parents would actually christen a child âStorm'? She wouldn't have been surprised to find out that in her younger years Storm had tried out as many names as she had other elements in her life. But she'd stayed with Storm Lavelle for the duration of their friendship.
Jude was giving her a basic relaxing massage, while the more important therapy of Storm unburdening herself continued. Storm would sometimes do a massage for Jude, so in these sessions no money ever changed hands. And whichever one was client or healer, it was still Storm who did most of the talking.
âI told you I'd split up with Paul, didn't I?'
âYou didn't actually, but I'd kind of pieced it together from your manner.'
âWhat is it with men? One moment they're all over you like a rash, then suddenly they go all cold and start mumbling about “needing their own space”.'
âYes.' Jude paused, then decided to say it anyway. It wouldn't be the first time she'd raised the point. âYou don't think, do you, Storm, that it might be because you always go at relationships so full-on, you know, with all guns blazing? Maybe if you started a bit more casually â¦?'
âI can't be casual about love. I have to follow my heart. I knew when I met Paul that he was absolutely the one for me. And he said the same â he said he'd never met anyone like me.'
Jude reckoned that was probably true, but she didn't voice the thought.
âSo how can someone be madly in love with you, saying he's having the best sex with you he's ever had, and then within a couple of weeks say he “needs his own space”?'
âIf women knew the answer to that question, Storm, the relationship between the sexes might be considerably easier.'
âYes. Do you think men are just differently wired from women?'
âIf I did, I wouldn't be the first to have expressed that opinion. But I think there are more similarities than differences between the genders. Everyone, male or female, is afraid of having their personality swamped by another person.'
âAnd are you saying that's what I do, Jude? Swamp people's personalities?'
âI'm just saying that if you took a more gradual, a slower approach into relationships â¦'
âBut I'm not a gradual person, I'm not a slow person. I have to obey my instincts.'
âEven if those instincts keep pushing you in the wrong direction?'
âWhat do you mean â “pushing me in the wrong direction”?'
âWell, look, Paul isn't the first man with whom your relationship has ended in much the same way.'
âHow can you say that, Jude?'
âFrom simple observation. Do you want me to name names? Carl, George, Nick, Harryâ'
âThose relationships were nothing like what I had with Paul. I knew from the start that Paul was the real thing.'
âI heard you say the same when you first met Carl â¦ and George â¦ and Nick â¦ andâ'
âNo, I'm sure I never said that with them.'
It wasn't worth arguing the point, though Jude's recollections of Storm's announcement of each new man in her life were extremely accurate.
âAnyway,' Storm announced, as she had so many times before, âI'm giving up men.'
âIn favour of what?'
âOther things. I've wasted so much of my life agonizing over them, it's time I got on with the things that really interest me.'
âAnd what might they be?' asked Jude, wondering what new fad was about to be revealed.
âActing,' Storm replied. âI'm really going to concentrate on my acting.'
Now this was not as foolish an answer as Jude had been expecting. Storm Lavelle was actually rather good at acting. Perhaps the wide variety in her own emotional life had enabled her to see inside the characters of others. Or, then again, like many with a shaky sense of their own identity, maybe she found a security in playing a role, in being a different person.