Monday, June 2, 2008

House on Crow's Nest Island, by Arlene Hale [1968]

Finished it this afternoon. Excellent! On a scale of 1 to 5, it's definitely a 5. The setting is very unique, imo; I mentioned it in a different thread [while halfway through it]. Scan obtained via Ebay.

Story takes place on a tiny and privately-owned island in the Mississippi River. The island is near a city on the river's edge. Grain elevators are mentioned, and grain dust (I hail from the Midwest; ol' Miss is the eastern border of my native state). Barges too.I was immediately taken with this idea: A forboding old mansion set upon a tiny island in the MS river. And if far enough north (I visualize it between southern Iowa and Illinois), next to the Quad Cities, the weather would often be gloomy enough (cloudy, rainy, foggy). That decided me to read this novel ahead of a stack of others.

Ann Clark, RN, is the young heroine of the story. She's smart, competent, professional, compassionate. She's hired to care for an elderly man, Nicodemus Laniard, who is master of the estate. Is the old man really senile and falsely accusing family members [themselves generally selfish and cold] of wanting to do him in for their share of the inheritance, or is he telling the truth despite half-coherent rants and tantrums? The family is unwelcoming and self-absorbed; no nurse has remained past 48 hours at Crow's Nest Island. But Ann, suspecting the family whom she does not like, is determined to stay, care for and protect her helpless elderly charge.Romance brews up between herself and Max Able, and also with Dr. Steven Webb. She's essentially torn between the winsome doctor with his warmth and charming smile, and dependable loyal Max -- the "strength of a sturdy tree which could weather any storm."I'm glad Ann had to choose between them and not me! The author tries to remain as "medically correct" as possible. One line did give me a laugh, though: That Nicodemus' "wild behavior" [sometimes] might be due to hardening of the arteries. However, I am impressed with the author's overall treatment of its nurse and doctor characters: Their devotion to patients, compassion and professionality.

The story stays on track, characters and surroundings are simply yet adequately described and easy to visualize; as though it's a movie unfolding to one's inner eye. Good twists and turns, most of which I did not foresee. Action, suspense, drama.A slight criticism [which I'm reluctant to make, as the story is so good] is a bit more Gothic atmosphere could have been injected into the story. Another thunderstorm, fog, "things that go bump in the night," perhaps the rumor of a haunting.Ann is definitely the kind of person I'd like to have as a friend. She's an ace, a real trooper. I was sorry when the story ended.

I "used" these actors to portray the characters [different eras]:

Ann Clark: Julie Adams [age 24]
Dr. Steven Webb: William Katt [age 28]
Max: Kevin Spacey [age 30]
Nicodemus L: Kirk Douglas [age 82]
Tenspot: Himself [a dog, lol]
Clayton L: Harrison Ford [age 30]
Mara L: Nancy Barrett [age 22]
Valerie L: Meryl Streep [age 52]
Harrison: Roddy McDowell (w/US accent) [age 35]
Kate: Kathy Bates [age 40]

Definitely, definitely give this book a read!

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