The Nurse by Amy Cross managed to get me involved with the characters. And I didn’t like them from page one. First, we meet Alice as she was twenty years ago. She is forced to spend a lot of time at home to take care of dad, who is bedridden. He suffers from a variety of illnesses and Alice is occupied with such mundane tasks as changing colostomy bags. Dad is anything BUT grateful and whines a lot only when he is not being abusive. Alice seems to be trapped into passive acceptance. I found dad to be a thoroughly detestable creature. Alice has time to take care of him because she has been on leave from her job as a nurse pending investigation of a case where Alice was accused of giving the wrong medicine to and causing the death of a patient, a young boy named Andrew. Occasionally Andrew visits the house to accuse and threaten Alice.
Next, we meet Rachael in the present day. She and her mom have moved into an old, run-down house. Walls are peeling, there is mold on walls, and the place feels bad. Rachael can only feel it because she is blind. Rachael’s mom is taking care of her while working as an office cleaner to earn enough money to support her daughter. Rachael is not appreciative; she whines and complains about everything and is resentful of her blindness. Her constant complaining reaches the level of abuse. Her mother passively accepts this (at least until Rachel plays the piano). I found Rachael to be a horrible person.
Rachael is not happy living in the “new” house. She feels there is a history about it. Rachel is sure mom knows the history but mom is not talking. Every time Rachael asks questions mom avoids answering them. Then mom goes to work, leaving Rachael alone in the house. And the noises begin. There are strange, rhythmic thumping sounds coming from mom’s room. They seem somehow tied to Rachael’s attempts at piano playing. Rachael plays, sounds commence. Rachael stops, sounds stop. Rachael is beginning to believe in ghosts.
There is a neighbor, Aidan, who visits Rachael when she is on her front porch enjoying the sun. Rachael asks Aidan to help find information about the history of the house. Aidan agrees. More and more of the history is revealed to Rachael. Her mom tries more and more to conceal or rationalize the facts discovered.
Up to this point, this is a pleasant story. Cross created her setting for a mystery. There is more than a suggestion that this is a ghost story. Dark deeds have been done. We all (readers, Rachael, mom, Aidan) deserve an explanation.
And then the book explodes with action. It turns into a solid page turner with surprises everywhere. When I discovered one surprising conclusion and thought “OK, that’s it, book’s over” another surprise happened. This is a fast read, just under two hours. For those who like the vicariously experienced shocks of horror, this is a reading experience that will remain with you for a while. Until you read another Amy cross book.