Thursday, December 03, 2015

Mary Higgins Clark: Because Old Habits Are Hard to Break

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Lane Harmon loves her job as the sole assistant to Glady Harper, a notoriously demanding Manhattan interior decorator who caters to the rich and famous.  The only thing that delights the 30-year-old more is her beautiful 4-year-old daughter, Katie.  Although they were married only a year, Lane will never stop missing the child's father, who died in a car accident five years ago.  Still, she must look forward, for surely a bright, successful future lies ahead for both herself and little Katie.

When Glady receives a commission to decorate a New Jersey townhouse, Lane is shocked to learn it belongs to Anne Bennett, the wife of a financier who disappeared two years before after stealing five billion dollars from his clients.  She's even more surprised by how sympathetically she feels toward the sickly woman.  Then, Lane meets Anne's son, 37-year-old Eric Bennett.  Rumored to be in cahoots with his disgraced father, the stock trader is not at all what Lane expected.  Using his own money to repay the funds stolen by his dad, Eric seems to be an honest man, embarrassed and concerned for the victims of the financial scandal.  Is he everything he appears to be?  As Lane falls harder and harder for handsome Eric, she must decide if he can really be trusted.

In the meantime, the Bennetts are being stalked by an angry man who lost everything because of the elder Mr. Bennett's scheming.  Lane's association with Eric is putting her directly in the path of a murderous victim.  Will she survive his wrath?  Can the undercover FBI agent who's watching everything unfold stop a killer before he strikes?  Or will young Katie be orphaned before she has a chance to start kindergarten?

I've talked about my long history with Mary Higgins Clark several times on this blog.  When I was in junior high and high school, her pulse-pounding novels kept me up way, way past my bedtime on many occasions.  Her engrossing mysteries kept me riveted with their seductively short chapters, intense plotting, and dramatic finales.  The Queen of Suspense knew how to keep me mesmerized, that's for sure.  As the years wore on, I noticed Clark's game slipping.  Her newer novels just haven't had the same pizzazz as her oldies-but-goodies.  And yet, I can't seem to stop myself from reading them.  

Naturally, then, I had to pick up The Melody Lingers On when it came out in June of this year.  The novel offered exactly what I've come to expect from Clark these days—a quick, uncomplicated mystery; flat, but likable characters; and an exciting, if predictable plot.  Nothing memorable, nothing special.  Even the ending felt anti-climatic to me. 

Considering how meh I've found Clark's recent novels, the question is: why do I keep reading her?  Habits are hard to break, true.  I also appreciate that I can always count on the 87-year-old author to provide a clean, entertaining tale that shies away from graphic language, sex, or violence.  Are her books going to knock my socks off?  Not anymore.  Are they going to give me a couple hours of relaxing, non-taxing diversion?  Absolutely.  So, yeah, I'll probably remain a fan for life (even if it's a bit reluctantly).  Still, I long for the good ole days when Clark's mysteries kept me glued to my seat, gnawing off my fingernails as I read, too enthralled to look away.  I think I'll always love her for giving me the exhilaration of those stolen, long-ago reading hours when all my teenage anxieties disappeared as I focused on the only thing that mattered right then—whodunit.  That's the beauty of a well-written mystery, the kind Clark used to pen so perfectly ...

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of Mary Higgins Clark's other mystery/thrillers, of which there are many)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), violence, and vague references to sex and rape

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

4 comments:

  1. I haven't read a Mary Higgins Clark novel for ages, yet she used to be my go to. I wonder what I would think of her novels now?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you do, let me know what you think!

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  2. I'm kind of ashamed to admit I've never read MHC book. Have you read one of her older novels recently? Has she really changed so much or have you? If it's her I would imagine getting new ideas would be hard. She's probably written all her good ones. She has soooo many books!

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    Replies
    1. That's the question, isn't it? I need to do an experiment -- read some of her old ones that I loved and see if they're as good as I remember them being. It could just be me who has changed, but other people I know/reviewers have said the same thing about her books. Good point, though, I should re-read some of her classics.

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