Paralyzed by a stroke, Sarah Oatland lies in her bed unable to move or speak or persuade her diffident nurse or her grasping niece Gwenyth that she can understand their prattling. All she can do is listen, observe, and seethe. Sarah's rage turns to agonized frustration when she overhears Murray and Valma Phipps, the new tenants Gwenyth has taken in, plotting to lure Valma's wealthy stepfather, retired actor Roderick Palmer, into the house and kill him. (Murray's matter-of-fact speculations about the range of household objects that could be turned to murderous account gives the threat a macabre edge.) And frustration yields in turn to terror when, just as Palmer's learned, through alert fellow-tenant Rose Abcons, 11, that Sarah can answer yes or no to his idle questions, the Phippses discover that she knows about their plans, and that she'll be a danger to them as long as there's any chance of her recovery. So the peril to Palmer becomes a peril as well to Sarah, who struggles to communicate to Palmer, to Rose, to anyone that the menace is creeping softly closer. . . . American readers will be reminded of the 1948 film Sorry, Wrong Number. But in this masterfully suspenseful 1969 Australian original, Carlon (The Souvenir, 1996) excels her melodramatic original in realism, psychological acuity, and a diabolical sense of homely detail.
Read full book review >