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Who Are You, Linda Condrick?
Patricia Carlon
Soho Press
190 pp.



Murder in the Outback
Patricia Carlon's Who Are You, Linda Condrick?

For the last two years, I have enthused in print over Soho Press’s re-releases of Patricia Carlon’s brilliant psychological thrillers and mysteries. (Click here to read my review The Unquiet Night and The Price of an Orphan.) While Carlon has retired from writing (a native Australian, she now lives in Sydney), Soho is doing yeoman’s work bringing her books to an American audience for the first time. To date, they’ve produced nine titles, including the latest, Who Are You, Linda Condrick? So far, there hasn’t been a single stinker in the bunch—but that should surprise no one who’s read Carlon.

Who Are You, Linda Condrick? may not be Carlon’s absolute-best Soho release, but it’s near the top. Originally published abroad in 1962, it’s a country-manor whodunit with a twist: instead of being set in the lush English countryside, it takes place on an Australian Outback sheep station that’s being threatened by an encroaching bush fire—to say nothing of the dangers posed by a family squabble that threatens to grow to the point of murder.

For all her accessibility to contemporary readers, Carlon’s books always seem to retain elements that look back into the genre’s past, and the plot here is no exception: at the family squabble’s center is a dispute over the recently diseased matriarch’s will. To everyone’s surprise (excluding readers who favor three-volume Victorian novels), she has left her entire estate to her grandson. Unfortunately for the others, the grandson has proposed to the matriarch’s nurse, and the nurse (whose past is as mysterious as her personality is brittle) seems dead-set on chasing them all out of the sheep station. But even when a drifter is found dead in the bush fire (poisoned by cyanide in his tea, no less) and all the clues point to the nurse being the murderer, she’s too tough to confess…or flee, even when two sharp-eyed detectives arrive from Sydney.

This is a Carlon book, though, and it never pays to expect her characters and plots to follow predictable paths. Maybe, after all, the nurse is being framed…indeed, at a second glance, the nurse’s accusers don’t look so innocent themselves.

Every time I pick up a new Carlon title, I tell myself to slow down and savor the experience—but I can’t. Her prose is so expertly lean and fast (and highly cinematic: wake up, Hollywood!) that I consume the book in a single night, and then I spend a year waiting for the next one. Happily, Carlon was a prolific writer (she wrote more than fifty novels), and we should expect more summer-catalog titles from her for years to come.

Who Are You, Linda Condrick? is highly, highly recommended for readers who favor the sort of devilishly smart psychological puzzles most often associated with masters like Patricia Highsmith and Alfred Hitchcock. Carlon is in rarified company, indeed.

—Review by Charlie Onion

Posted February 1, 2003


About the Author

Patricia Carlon was born in Wagga Wagga in 1927.  She now lives in Sydney.  Her suspense novels, which were first published in Australia in the 1960s, have now been published in seven counties.  The Soho release of Who Are You, Linda Condrick? is its first U.S. publication.




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