Monday, May 13, 2019

The Case for Nurse Sheridan

By Nora Sanderson, ©1965

How much longer could Staff Nurse Erica Sheridan go on shielding a mother suffering from kleptomania? For, intaking on the responsibility, Erica was bringing suspicion on herself and threatening her whole career. And on top of it all, she had to fall in love with a man who thought she was no better than a thief!


“If I had a figure like yours I’d invest in a bikini.”

“A girl as distractingly pretty as you should never try defying the male of the species.”

“What a frightful waste of all the doctor’s expensive training—if he’s drowned, I mean. We’re all going to miss him terribly.”

This may be the strangest basis for a VNRN I’ve read: Nurse Erica Sheridan’s mother is a kleptomaniac and goes around town stealing everything she can lay her hands on. Mom Lee is desperate to keep her extracurricular activities secret because her husband, a prominent citizen in town and chairman of the board of the hospital where Erica works, would be devastated if he knew of it. So Erica’s free time is spent surreptitiously slipping the scarves, gold keys, ten-pound notes, earrings, and other miscellaneous items back to their rightful owners.

The unfortunate part is that if Lee is never once caught in the act of stealing, Erica is spotted every single time with the stolen item in her possession—clearly she has nowhere near the talent of her mother! Hospital doctor Blake Resswin also somehow manages to be perenially involved, and he spends a lot of time chastising Erica for her crimes, begging her to admit she’s a kleptomaniac. Curiously, Erica is outrageously defiant and spends most of her time with Dr. Resswin shrieking at him that she’s just a common thief and snarling things like, “You might consider having locks put on the patients’ lockers, Doctor.” And being hurt that he believes she’s a thief, paradoxically, when she’s in possession of stolen goods and admits guilt to him. He and Erica both feel that a kleptomaniac is not responsible for her crimes—“you can’t call kleptomania stealing”—so if she’s declared a kleptomaniac, Erica will not have to be fired from her job. It’s not altogether clear why Erica insists on being known as a thief, or why Dr. Resswin does not report her, though Erica does at one point allude to the fact that her father, who has worked to further Dr. Resswin’s career, will not approve of him outing his daughter as a criminal.

Also bizarre is Lee Sheridan’s really nasty attitude toward Erica, not to  mention her easy comfort with dumping responsibility for her crimes squarely on her daughter, and her manipulation of Erica to keep covering up for her. After stealing a gold key at a public function, Lee slips the key to Erica: “Do put it away in your purse, there’s a pet. People might notice you holding a handkerchief bundled up in your hand like that—and it doesn’t even match your tea-blue ensemble.” After it’s announced that the key is missing and everyone will be searched as they leave the event, “her mother was looking at her across the table. Erica returned the glance, certain she had caught a suggestion of almost spiteful triumph beneath the sweetness of the older woman’s smile.” As the mess piles up, and it’s starting to look like Erica is going to do jail time when a diamond brooch is stolen and then found in Erica’s top drawer, it’s hard to understand why Erica is willing to completely ruin her entire life—throw away her nursing training and career and go to prison—for her mother, but needless to say in the end all is revealed. Though really barely even hinted at throughout the book, with all their shouting at each other, it is also not surprising that Erica and Dr. Resswin should declare their undying love at the end. This book is certainly an oddity, and not badly written, but it doesn’t really have much to offer.

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