In the little Australia outback community of Leumeah Valley, Linda Condrick is the only stranger. First brought into the community to nurse Gregory Forst's aging grandmother, Linda has stayed on after the old woman's sudden death and is now engaged to be married to Gregory himself. And there the trouble lies, because Mrs. Forst left the valley and every penny in it to Gregory, and as soon as Linda gets her hands on this fortune, she intends to turn the other occupants of the valley out on their own. No wonder they hate her. No wonder they wish she was gone. No wonder, when after a fire has raged through the outback and the body of a swaggie (drifter) is found in its remains, Linda gets the blame. She was the person who sent him to help fight the fire, wasn't she? And why was she later seen over by the gully where he died? Soon two policemen from the city arrive and the questions begin. No one escapes Inspector Quince's affable but searching investigation -- not Linda, not Gregory, not any of the other married or intermarried relatives living with them; Diana, Billy, Hudson, Marcia, Wilma, and last but definitely not least, Rowena, the sixteen-year-old girl brought into the family as a toddler, now the narrator of this story. From the start suspicion rests on Linda, and the twists and turns along the way don't help her any. Who is she? And what has she done?
Interestingly enough, WHO ARE YOU, LINDA CONDRICK? was originally published in Great Britian in 1962. I don't know why it took 40 years for this novel to reach the U.S. It is cleanly written and fast paced, laced with ever increasing tension and padded with clues that give the reader much to contemplate without ever revealing the totally surprising ending. But -- that ending. I intend to read this book over again in a few days and perhaps that will change my opinion, but while during the first reading I was hooked in the first chapter and steadily reeled in throughout the entire short book (190 pages), the last chapter left me with a spinning head and a lot of questions. Yes, the mystery is unraveled perfectly, the characters well drawn, and the prose solid, but I could have done with more explanations.
My small criticisms aside, WHO ARE YOU, LINDA CONDRICK? is a compelling novel that is sure to satisfy fans of taut, fast paced, and well characterized little mysteries.