Juggernaut (1929) by Alice Campbell
Esther Rowe is a young Canadian nurse who has come to France with a patient. The post was temporary--lasting only until the woman met up with friends--so Esther must decide if she is going to return to cold, snowy New York or remain in Cannes where it is much warmer and more beautiful. She's never had a chance to travel before and decides to stay a while, provided she can find a job. So, she answers an advertisement for an English nurse put out by a Dr. Santorius. The job will not be arduous as the rather forbidding man takes a few patients as possible--just enough to support his research.
Esther hasn't been with him long before he tells her he's shutting up shop and taking a position as personal physician to Sir Charles Clifford, a wealthy mill owner who has made his money in fabrics. Apparently, Santorius believes he will make enough from just this one patient to allow him to fund his research for a while. She is dismayed at first because she thinks she'll need to find another job or head back to America, but Santorius tells her that a position for a day nurse is also available if she would like it. She decides that she does....and finds herself involved not only in caring for a typhoid patient but in the middle of mystery and intrigue.
She notices little things...like the fact that Sir Charles's young, beautiful wife seems to be seeing an awful lot of Captain Arthur Holliday. And Lady Therese is a temperamental young thing who doesn't like to be told who she can see and what she can spend money on. Lady Therese also has little tete-a-tetes with the doctor...at the most inappropriate times. Then Roger Clifford, Sir Charles's son by a previous marriage, arrives and there is a definite antipathy between him and his stepmother. Sir Clifford doesn't make things any better when he makes changes to his will that makes Roger the trustee with complete power over the distribution of Lady Therese's inheritance. Lady Therese begins searching for something....first under her husband's pillow and then in Roger's room. What is she looking for? When Sir Clifford relapses and dies from the second round of typhoid, Esther becomes even more uneasy. And then Esther disappears. Roger, who has slowly been succumbing to Esther's innocent charms, doesn't know what to think What's happened to the nurse? Will he find her in time?
So....this was one long, slow ride to the inevitable, clearly signaled finish. Even Inspector Clouseau should be able to figure this one out if he reads it. As soon as the point was made that "dear devoted" little Therese had taken over giving Sir Clifford his milk, my villain detector went off. There was no way I was going to believe that she had suddenly decided to be all domestic and wifely and wanted to bring him his glass of milk. But my main complaint? Why on earth if the villains were intent on knocking off Sir Charles Clifford did they not just do it? Why make him sick and then let him be nursed back to health only to give him a heft dose of the live typhoid culture and kill him? There was no benefit at all. In fact, if they had done it straight off Sir Charles wouldn't have had time to make adjustments to his will and that pesky Nurse Rowe wouldn't have gotten all suspicious. And, we wouldn't have had to wade through a good third to half the book to get to the murder. That first half really dragged. Other more minor quibbles: How on earth could Roger have missed the plot going on under his nose? And why is Esther so shy about telling him all the little things she's noticed? Could have saved herself a lot of grief if she'd just mentioned a few of them.
The second half was more exciting and it was quite suspenseful when Esther disappears for a while and poor Roger is trying to figure out what's going on. The wrap-up is a bit anticlimactic (especially since we know who did it the whole time)...not nearly as good a mystery as anticipated. ★★ and 1/2
*Thanks to Rick Mills for my edition of Juggernaut--a prize from when he was able to offer them for the challenges he sponsors.
First line: When Esther rang the bell of Numero 86 Rue de Grasse, she felt within her that pleasant sort of stage-fright--a mixture of dread and exhilaration--which one is apt to experience when venturing into the unknown.
Last line: "Since you force me to admit it," she whispered against his neck, "it's quite long enough for me--too!"
Deaths = 3 (two poisoned; one fell from height)