Whoever I Am

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Pan Macmillan, Feb 14, 2013 - Fiction - 224 pages
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Hill House private nursing-home, attractively sited above Bournemouth shore, cares most competently for the sick. But two convalescent patients suddenly die, and actress Helen Markham leaves the stage and totters into the nursing-home as the weak-minded Miss Jones.

For there is already a patient at Hill House who is not what he or she seems. It could be the boring and amiable Mr Thomas. Courteous Mr Corlett or wild-eyed Miss Welch. Mrs Anthony always smiling or Mrs Stoddart forever anticipating tea. Any one of the patients could be matching the quick mind of Helen Markham behind Miss Jones’s blank stare. And who is the young man who haunts the corridors and cruelly tests all Helen’s courage and acting skill?

There are no answers at The Laurels, the mock-Tudor pile where Helen’s mysterious mentor lives with his daughter and where Helen learns her most difficult role. But here at least she can be herself – until a discovery which makes it seem there is no one in either house whom she can trust.

And when her job is done she must face the most terrible ordeal of all, the danger of death in the night against which she has been instructed not to defend herself.

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About the author (2013)

An only child, Eileen Dewhurst was self-sufficient and bookish from an early age, preferring solitude or one-to-one contacts to groups, and hating sport. Her first attempts at writing were not auspicious. At 14, a would-be family saga was aborted by an uncle discovering it and quoting from it choked with laughter. A second setback came a few years later at school, when a purple passage was returned with the words 'Cut this cackle!' written across it in red ink: a chastening lesson in how embellishments can weaken rather than strengthen one’s message.

Eileen read English at Oxford, and afterwards spent some unmemorable years in 'Admin' before breaking free and dividing her life in two: winters in London doing temporary jobs to earn money and experience, summers at home as a freelance journalist, spinning 'think pieces' for the Liverpool Daily Post and any other publications that would take them, and reporting on food and fashion for the long defunct Illustrated Liverpool News, as well as writing a few plays.

Her first sustained piece of writing was a fantasy for children which was never published but secured an agent. Her Great Autobiographical Novel was never published either, although damned with faint praise and leading to an attempt at crime writing that worked: over the next thirty years she produced almost a book a year and also published some short stories in anthologies and Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.

Eileen has always written from an ironic stance, never allowing her favourite characters to take themselves too seriously: a banana skin is ever lurking.

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