Thursday, November 3, 2022

Registered Nurse

By Paul Ernst, ©1960

Nurse Carol Bond was a witnessed to death! She had arrived at the scene of the accident seconds after the two cars had crashed head-on. The victims—wealthy George Caldwell and his lifelong friend, Henry Ebon—died a few minutes later. But which man died first? To the heirs the answer was worth $1,500,000. But to Carol it marked to the beginning of frightening events that threatened her career-- and her life. For someone who would stop at nothing—even murder—put this pretty young witness into a very well-built frame.


“This was a girl who could carry her own suitcase and handle her own hysterics.” 

The inside cover blurb for this book declares it “combines suspense and romance in a compelling novel,” and this is a very accurate description. Front and center is a mystery about who is trying to frame Nurse Carol Bond, while in the background a romance blooms between Carol and a young attorney trying to clear her name. Throughout we are treated with some really fine writing by an author who was known for penning the original 24 Avenger novels. At the end of the day, though, it’s more mystery than romance, so I feel compelled to mark it down slightly. 

Nurse Carol Bond is on her way home from work as a private duty nurse on the evening shift when she happens upon a car crash. Two men from one of the cars lie on the pavement, rapidly shuffling off this mortal coil. There is another woman who pops up to help Carol tend the victims, who are both dead within 15 minutes of her arrival. But who died first? And why would anyone care? Well, one of the men, George Caldwell, was a very wealthy businessman, while the other, Dr. Henry Ebon, was his not-so-rich best friend. Caldwell’s will leaves his very large estate to Dr. Ebon, but if the doctor predeceases him, the estate goes to his extended family. And Carol is quite certain that Caldwell died first, of a sucking chest wound.

The next day, a delivery boy drops off a luxurious mink stole at Carol’s apartment. Carol’s best friend Arlene—the wise-cracking, smartass type—tries to help Carol figure out who might have given to her: “I’ve got it. A grateful patient. Someone whose fevered brow you’ve cooled recently.” A few days later, Carol receives a notice from the bank in the mail stating that her account has been credited with a cash deposit of $1,000. What could all this be about? Summoned to Caldwell’s attorney’s office that afternoon, it quickly becomes clear: Someone who might have benefited from Caldwell’s estate is using these anonymous gifts to throw suspicion on Carol’s testimony. The attorney for Dr. Ebon’s estate, Andy Stewart, quickly comes to appreciate Carol’s veracity, and her figure. Soon he is leading to chase all over town for clues and suspects, with Carol acting as Dr. Watson.

It really is a very entertaining book, with excellent writing from the first paragraph: “Cocked up at a crazy angle was a single beam, piercing the midnight sky like a slanted finger.” Carol is a sturdy, competent character, who “did not have that nice firm little chin for nothing.” She can figure a few things out for herself and isn’t just led around by Andy in their pursuit of the truth and the guilty party. The answer to the mystery is not easily deduced, and the plotting moves along at a good pace, but not so fast you can’t follow each development. Again, my only real problem with the book is that the romance is the most predictable and boring aspect of it, revealed in fairly plain prose such as “Carol was beginning to think that perhaps they added up to something more than average.” And I really wish we had spent a lot more time with bestie Arlene, who was by far the most interesting character in the book. If you are looking for a VNRN that is not at all the usual fare, this book exactly fits that bill, and if the ending is sealed with a charming kiss, we can only wish that there had been more of that elsewhere in the book.

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