House on the Rocks
Theresa Charles | Paperback Library | 1966 | 176 pages
Recovering in a private hospital following an accident that left her father, David, dead, Adele Phelim suffers a series of nightmares that makes her doubt the official version of the fatal incident. Convinced that David’s drowning death was not accidental, Adele struggles to remember the possible presence of a third person at the rocky cliffside beneath the family estate, before her own memory fails. Having received a near-fatal blow to the head from the rocks at the shore, or from the hands of a murderer, Adele fears returning to the House on the Rocks.
Her fears seem to be justified when she receives a poisoned box of chocolates at the hospital, but no one, including her personal physician, Dr. Rodney Tayne, seems to think of calling the police. In a strikingly unprofessional move, Dr. Tayne confesses his romantic interest for Adele. Nothing says love more than seeming to confess, While you have been incapacitated in your hospital bed, I have been standing over you—longing.
Accompanied home by a young nurse, Adele finds a climate steeped in suspicion. Her stepmother, Deidre, stands to inherit half the estate, but has positioned herself in strong opposition to Blair Kennard, her late-husband’s partner, on how to continue with the family’s struggling flower business. Blair, a chemist who developed the formula for the company’s fertilizer products, had confronted David over tampering with his mixture in order to cut costs and gain profits. Deirdre’s cousin, Gaston Loire, worked as a photographer on a series of advertising campaigns for the company, and was Adele’s former suitor before David stopped the relationship—claiming that Gaston was nothing more than a gold-digging, romantic opportunist.
Aside from an attempt to break into Adele’s room, not much happens in the House on the Rocks, as new revelations—Deidre’s surprise pregnancy, Blair’s secret manslaughter charge, accusations of David’s philandering past—drive Adele’s suspicions toward one resident or another. The atmosphere is modestly menacing, but Adele is not much of a detective, searching for as many romantic leads among the suspects as deadly ones.
Eventually, a culprit reveals himself, an obvious love-interest emerges, and a creepy doctor is left to prey upon his emotionally underdeveloped nurse.