by Sharon Tucker
“When someone is mean to me, I just make them a victim in my next book.” –Mary Higgins Clark
I have only recently begun to read Mary Higgins Clark. Her style is rather more journalistic than I usually like, but I must say she tells a good, textured story. Having authored over fifty books, won numerous awards, and sold millions of titles, she passed away January 31, 2020, at the age of ninety-two. She was associated with Simon and Schuster publishing house, and the same editor for over forty-four years, a remarkable record in itself. Her plots were sensitive to the times she wrote about and reflected the concerns of a cross section of beliefs, occupations, and personality types. Her work was reliable but inventive, and justice was always done with a few surprises along the way. The Sleeping Beauty Killer (2016), You Don’t Own Me (2018), and I’ve Got My Eyes on You (2018) are all recent works but still exemplify the body of mystery novels Clark created and for which she is celebrated. The first two of these three were co-authored with Alafair Burke as part of their Under Suspicion series.
Third in the Under Suspicion series is The Sleeping Beauty Killer (2016). As the novel opens, Casey Carter is released from prison after serving fifteen years for the murder of her celebrity fiancé, Hunter Raleigh III. Determined to prove that she was wrongfully convicted, Carter interests Laurie Moran Under Suspicion’s producer and investigative team to look into her case, determined to face whatever conclusion they may reach. Complications ensue because no one, not even Carter’s family, really believes she is innocent and to exacerbate the situation, she is still pilloried daily in the press by a particular source with constant insider information—not an easy case to crack.
Another cause celebre is the center of the sixth in the Under Suspicion series, You Don’t Own Me. Grieving parents Dr. and Mrs. Robert Bell have given up on law enforcement as well as private investigators to solve the riddle of their son’s death. The Bells are convinced his widow, Kendra, murdered him. However, Laurie Moran sees the case against the widow as a conundrum. Oddly, the police have not been able to establish the widow’s guilt, but neither have they found anything exculpatory, much less anything else that leads to another line of investigation. It seems the widow has made a new life for herself and might be able to move forward if her in-laws would only allow it.
The tragic death of Kerry Dowling has almost too many suspects to choose from in I’ve Got My Eyes on You. Her frequent arguments with her boyfriend make him the prime suspect, but a slighted neighbor would be under suspicion almost as much if the police knew his circumstances. Then there is the mysterious man who fixed a flat for Kerry only days before her death. Will Kerry’s sister, the high school guidance counselor, be able to assist the police in finding the truth about her death, or is she in danger too?
All of Higgins’ characters flirt with danger and disaster—it’s what makes her plots work so well. I found that once I started reading, I really wanted to keep on reading just to see what would happen next. Even though I can’t exactly identify with her main characters (they are a bit more upwardly mobile than I’d ever care to be), the dilemmas they find themselves in could ensnare any of us. Perhaps what I enjoyed the most was the setting to rights of all the entanglements. The novels I read all end quite satisfactorily and with a surprise or twist to make it even more interesting. I’m glad to have finally read her. I will again.
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