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Intruder at Maison Benedict by Susan Richard
(12-29-2017, 10:16 PM)paigenumber Wrote: Spoiler alert! But really, I'm saving you a lot of time.

Elise is named as heiress of a mansion in Vermont. However, she must live in the mansion for a year in order to own it. In the hands of a skilled writer, this thin plot might have been pulled off successfully.  But unfortunately, this was another disappointment from the 1960s.

The events were so contrived and so melodramatic, it was embarrassing.  I was embarrassed for the author and embarrassed that I was reading it.  I'd like to re-enact my favorite scene, the denouement, but let me give you a brief summary to lead up to it.

Henri Benedict buys a chateau built by French settlers in Vermont in the 1800s.  It was abandoned for some time before he came over during WWII when the Germans occupied France.  He brought his sister Simone and mother with him.  But he had to return to join the Resistance and rescue his other sister Margaret, grandmother and great-uncle Leon.  On that trip he was wounded and presumed dead for a while.  However, he came through the war but died young.  He left his home to Elise on the condition that his mother would remain mistress until her death, which was 13 years after his own.  So the story starts out with Elise inheriting this home and making her way to the small town in Vermont, where she is met with hostility by the townspeople and the remaining occupants of the house - Grandmere, spinster Margaret, thrice-married Simone, crazy great-uncle Leon, a crone of a housekeeper and a thug of a gardener.  Simone is friendly enough, as is Leon and the sometime housemaid, as well as our hero, Dr. Butler.  Our heroine and hero promptly fall in love on their first meeting, which is the day of the arrival.  Dr. Butler is filling in for Dr. Matthews who has had a stroke (3 in all by the end of the story). Of course, nobody has any idea why Elise was named in the will and it occurs to her at random times, "I need to find out why".  Finally, they settle on Dr. Matthews as holding the answers (God knows why).  Miraculously, he recovers after 3 strokes at the end of the story and is able to tell her.  "You are Henri's daughter.  Didn't anybody know?" (not quite literally, but that was essentially part of the dialogue).  So, our hero doesn't want Elise to tell her new-found family yet until he can be present.  He drops her off at the house and takes off.  Here comes the scene:

"So Elise, you're back," says Grandmere (great-grandmere to Elise).  "Let's walk down to the pond.  You haven't seen it yet.  Nevermind that it's the middle of winter and I have yet to show you any signs of friendliness or interest.  The pond is frozen and beautiful."  

Elise follows Grandmere and aunt Margaret down a path to the pond when they suddenly round on her and Grandmere commands Margaret to shoot Elise. "Oh no," cries Elise, "you don't understand." 

"Of course I understand," says Grandmere. "Henri was being sentimental, thinking you were his daughter.  Oh yes, Dr. Matthews called to tell me.  But I don't believe it." 

"I can't do it," cries Margaret.  

"Fine.  I will do it then," says Grandmere, taking the gun and aiming it at Elise.

"No, grandmere. Stop!" calls Simone coming out of the house.  She picks up a rock and throws it at her grandmother (from a distance of how far?).  The rock hits grandmere's hand and turns the gun towards herself when it goes off (yeah, I'd like forensics to test that out).

Grandmere falls down dying and says, "You are a Benedict.  Except for your eyes, you look just like Henri." (really, no one in the family noticed that before?)

"Oh, I didn't mean to kill her," cries Simone.

"It's all right. At least, I don't have to live with lies anymore," sobs Margaret.  "She was a shame to our family.  Henri didn't need to rescue me and uncle Leon.  It was her.  She was in league with the Germans and he had to get her out of France.  That's why he didn't want publicity and to be known as a great artist."

"Now that she's dead, I can present his artwork to the world," dreams Elise. "He can now get recognition."

"Would he mind having a doctor for a son-in-law?" asks Dr. Butler. "Since he is not here, do I have to get permission from you two?"  Really!

Ha! Amazing, some of the things that squeaked by publishers in the days of the Craze.

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RE: Intruder at Maison Benedict by Susan Richard - by Penfeather - 12-30-2017, 05:26 AM

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