(pseud. William E. Daniel Ross), ©1969
Nurse Carol Holly accepted her summer assignment to the Mic-Mac lodge with joy. It seemed full of promise. Her patient was wealthy Arthur Kulas, a stroke victim, a diabetic, but a fascinating art collector and lecturer still active in his career. And the Canadian resort offered the finest in entertainment and sports. Only Walter Pitt, the carefree young man who had pursued her from Boston, and Dr. Bill Shaw, the Mic-Mac’s resident physician, presented a problem; she liked both more than she cared to admit. Then Carol’s lightheartedness came to an abrupt end. Her patient was beaten, his room burglarized. By whom? By one or more of the too-fashionable guests at the lodge? But why? Harried by the mystery, Carol still dedicated herself to her nurse’s duties—until the criminals struck violently again, this time at her!
“Let’s admit, in spite of all the colleges, Boston is not the fun spot of the world for a single girl.”
“My last nurse had an unfortunate addiction to ginger ale. It was one of her more distressing aspects.”
“I hope you’re not given to making touching philosophic speeches like that. I couldn’t bear it.”
“Bart adores bullying me, and I find it so flattering.”
“Everybody acts idiotic at one time or another, but the people I have to deal with seem to make a career of it.”
“If Gabriel was blowing his horn and walls were tumbling all around us, you’d be running after me with a medicine bottle.”
“You are at your best in tennis clothes.”
“Don’t worry your pretty bullet-singed head.”
This being a book by Dan Ross, you know it won’t be long before we meet a woman who will be referred to as “the dark girl” again and again. Enter Mimi Gamal, a Lebanese woman staying at the hotel in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, where stroke victim Arthur Kulas has gone to recuperate. “The name Gamal suggests she could be Turkish,” Arthur explains to Nurse Carol Holly, who he’s dragged along to tend to him on his trip. “But she’s too beautiful for a Turkish woman. More apt to be of mixed blood. They are always the loveliest women.”
In addition to being a racist, Arthur is a gloriously cranky Back Bay Bostonian (Beacon Street, to be precise), a former State Department envoy to Egypt, who puts on lectures about the Middle East illustrated with valuable exhibits from his personal art collection. He’s going to Canada to recover from the stroke that he’s showing no signs of; it’s his diabetes that gives him trouble, so Carol is there to administer insulin shots twice a day and urge him to eat on schedule. But that’s about the job entails, so this leaves her plenty of time to play tennis with various men at the resort.
One of her would-be boyfriends is Walter Pitt, a man she has encountered on the street outside Kulas’ house before they departed for Canada. He stops her with the story that he’s found a lost purse, but when she tells him it’s not hers, he chases her down the street for several blocks, insisting that he’s not “some sort of crazy person”—his persistence clearly proving otherwise—adding that her reluctance to engage in conversation with a stranger marks her as “unreasonable and Victorian,” saying, “Here we live in a swinging age, and you’re acting this way!” Naturally, when she meets him in Canada, she tells him, “I’m glad to see you again,” and takes him up on a game of tennis after he easily convinces her that his being there is a complete coincidence. Later she snubs him after he dances with Mimi Gamal, and her raging jealousy of Mimi keeps her sparring with him for the rest of the book, she all the long fervently insisting that she is not at all jealous! I hope for her sake that no one ever tries to sell this poor dope a bridge.
Her other beau is the local doctor, Bill Shaw. “You seem to attract young men,” Arthur notes drily. “I trust you’re not going to allow a biological urge to get you into trouble.” Given her gullibility, I don’t have much confidence in Carol’s ability to say no. Indeed, Bill soon convinces her to spend her afternoons at the understaffed hospital, since they need her help so much more than Arthur does. Curiously, though, for an overworked medico Bill has plenty of time for tennis with Carol. Bill doesn’t impress much as a doctor when he’s actually working, either; he treats a man for a mild heart attack, and decides, “But we won’t tell him that. No need to scare him.” Later, tending to an accident victim whose leg is clearly broken in several places and bleeding heavily, he chooses to first repair the facial lacerations before determining if the major arteries in the leg have been severed. If the kid bleeds out, at least he’ll look good in his coffin.
A number of people in the hotel profess a deep interest in Arthur’s artifacts, including Mimi, the hotel’s orchestra’s bass player and his wife, tourists Captain Bart and his wife Ellen Hooper, and sea Captain Tim Mullaney—who offers Holly a ride on the street which she accepts because she didn’t want “to give the impression she considered herself above riding in a truck.” It doesn’t take a genius to feel suspicious of their salivating enthusiasm for the valuables, but Carol is not the brightest bulb on the tree, so she drops what should be confidential information—particularly after an attempted burglary—at the slightest hint, including the fact that Arthur has brought a lot of his valuables with him on the trip. Even when she starts to have “the scary feeling that behind all this casual talk there was a pattern, an evil pattern,” she still tells them that the artifacts are kept in locked bags in the hotel suite but that Arthur will probably be taking them out to sort through them at some point. She’ll be lucky not to be charged as an accessory to the burglary that anyone but Carol can see coming a mile away.
Indeed, at the halfway point in the book, Arthur wakes up to find he has been robbed again, but only items of little value are taken. Carol wastes no time in publicizing this fact, along with the information that the cases just have light locks on them. It’s not surprising, then, that Arthur and Carol are soon held captive by four of the obvious suspects, who are after a treasure map they have assumed that Arthur not only owns—which he has already plausibly denied in private to Carol—but brought with him to Canada. The pair is rescued by Walter and Captain Tim, and the would-be crooks escape. Then two more invite Carol and Arthur on a cruise piloted by Captain Tim, with Walter crashing the party at the last minute. Miles out at sea, one of the party pulls a gun and insists that Arthur “hand over” the treasure map—now the assumption is not only that he brought the map on vacation but that he carries it with him everywhere he goes.
Suddenly the plot takes on the velocity of a tornado: In four paragraphs the criminals have been apprehended and investigated, and Arthur and Carol have checked out of the hotel. Now all that remains is for the treasure map to be found and Carol to decide who to marry. Four pages later that has been accomplished, too, and with the nauseating final sentence, we can be shut of this stupid book.
If there is one thing I cannot stand, it’s a stupid heroine. The only enjoyable feature of this book is the witticisms that Arthur tosses off with marvelous frequency, but unless you have the ability to enjoy a dumb book, it may not be enough to compensate for an insultingly flawed story line and a moronic main character.