All Through the Night

broken Christmas ornament
Broken ornament for a heartbroken mother.

Like her 1995 bestseller Silent Night, Mary Higgins Clark’s All Through the Night is a mystery for the Christmas season. Both novels feature a child in a pivotal role, since threats to children are deemed particularly ugly in December.

All Through the Night opens on a cold December night as a young woman leaves her newborn baby in a secondhand stroller on St. Clement’s rectory steps just as a man inside empties the offering boxes and grabs a precious chalice, setting off the alarm system.

Seven years later, the woman, who has always regretted abandoning her infant, comes to play a concert in Carnegie Hall just as the thief, who grabbed what he thought was an empty stroller to deflect suspicion, makes plans to take “his” daughter to provide cover for his lucrative drug delivery business.

Meanwhile, amateur sleuth Alvirah Meehan and husband, Willy, are trying to prevent an after-school program for poor kids from being closed and to keep their Kate Durbin from losing her home because of what they believe to be a fraudulent will.

There’s little story and less suspense in this novel, but it has snow and lights and a happy ending, which may be enough for Christmas.

All Through the Night: A Suspense Story
by Mary Higgins Clark
Simon & Schuster. ©1998. 170 p.
1999 bestseller #10; my grade: C

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni

Pretend You Don’t See Her

Woman’s face is faintly visible through leaves of a tree
The woman isn’t quite hidden.

Pretend You Don’t See Her is scary thriller in which a hired killer stalks women who know too much about the mob connections of a reputable businessman.

Lacey Farrell, a made-for-Hollywood heroine, is young, sexy, New York City real estate agent on her way up when she makes a promise to a dying woman to turn over her later daughter’s journal to the police and encounters the woman’s fleeing murderer.

Lacey keeps her promise, but keeps a copy of the journal. The original disappears from police custody.

The murderer is wanted by the FBI.

The NYPD and the federal investigators quarrel over jurisdiction.

Someone tries to shoot Lacey and hits her 4-year-old niece instead.

Lacey is placed in the witness protection program, given a new identity, moved to Minneapolis, and cautioned not to let even her closest relatives have any clues to where she is. Lacey isn’t good at following orders, nor is she bright enough to realize that telling her mother anything is like taking out a front page ad in The New York Times.

A quarter of the way into Pretend You Don’t See Her, anyone who ever read a Mary Higgins Clark novel will know who the culprit is.

Pretend You Don’t See Her
by Mary Higgins Clark
Simon and Schuster. ©1997. 318 p.
1997 bestseller #8; my grade: C+

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni

Silent Night (novel)

broken Christmas ornament
A St. Christopher medal would be more fitting.

Mary Higgins Clark’s Silent Night is the sort of novel that used to be called a diversion.

A doctor with leukemia comes to New York for surgery, accompanied by his wife and two sons. While he’s in the recovery room, Mrs. Dornan takes the boys to Rockefeller Center to distract them and drops her wallet.

Although the wallet contains several hundred dollars in cash, it also contains a St. Christopher medal that the boys’ grandmother told them will keep their father safe. The younger boy, Brian, 7, sees a young woman snatch the wallet and follows her.

The woman, Cally Siddons, arrives home to find her brother, Jimmie, there. He has escaped from prison, shooting a guard in the process. Hot on her heels, Brian arrives demanding his mom’s wallet.

Jimmie appropriates the money and decides to take Brian hostage. He has a stolen car waiting near Cally’s apartment and a girlfriend waiting at the Canadian border. Jimmie bundles Brian into the car and they head north into a nasty winter storm.

If, in the spirit of Christmas, you can overlook the absurdities of the plot, the story will occupy you while you wait for Santa Claus, but Silent Night will never replace A Christmas Carol.

Silent Night by Mary Higgins Clark
Simon and Schuster. ©1995. 154 p.
1995 bestseller #8; my grade: C+

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni

All Around the Town

bloody handprint on a curtain on open sliding doorIf you’ve watched television in the last 50 years, you’ve seen pieces of the plot of All Around the Town many times in old movies.

The plot’s container is the tale of Laurie Kenyon, a college student accused of murdering her English professor. Her fingerprints are all over his bedroom.

Laurie was kidnapped at age 4 and sexually abused for two years before the kidnappers abandoned her. When she is arrested for murder, the four personalities she developed to cope with her trauma emerge.

Laurie’s sister, a lawyer, takes on her defense, aided by a handsome, unmarried psychiatrist.

When they abducted Laurie, Bic and Opal Hawkins were tavern entertainers. Laurie’s arrest coincides Bic hitting the big time as a TV evangelist. Using their TV names, Rev. Bobby and Carla Hawkins, they pose as buyers for the Kenyon sisters’ home, which allows them to wiretap it so the reverend can get rid of Laurie if one of her personalities names him as her kidnapper.

Mary Higgins Clark mashes all these implausible elements together, sweetening the mix with even more implausible elements.

In the end, the implausibilities don’t matter. No sensible reader could care about any of these characters. They’ll be relieved at the story’s end when Laurie goes off to play golf.

All Around the Town by Mary Higgins Clark
Simon & Schuster. ©1992. 302 p.
1992 bestseller #10; my grade: C-

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni

Loves Music, Loves to Dance

A high-heeled shoe stands in a puddle of bloodLoves Music, Loves to Dance explores the dark side of media-mediated dating 1990s.

Two college friends work in New York. Erin Kelley is recognized as a rising star among jewelry designers. Darcy Scott is carving a niche for herself as decorator for the budget-conscious.

The two women are helping a third friend, a TV producer, with research for a documentary by placing and responding to personal column ads and keeping notes on the experiences.

One Tuesday evening after she was to meet a guy from an ad, Erin disappears. Later, her body is found on an abandoned pier. She’s wearing her own shoe on one foot, a high-heeled dance shoe on the other.

A cop tells Vince D’Ambrosio, FBI investigator specializing in serial killers, about Darcy’s unsuccessful attempt to file a missing person report on Erin.

Vince springs into action, investigating red herrings Mary Higgins Clark has sprinkled through the novel like ice melt in January, missing the clue that practically stands up and yells, “CLUE.”

At least Clark has the sense not to pair Darcy off with Vince.

With its big print and lavish use of white space, Loves Music, Loves to Dance will occupy readers for a couple hours before they toddle off to an early bedtime.

Loves Music, Loves to Dance by Mary Higgins Clark
Simon & Schuster. ©1991. 319 p.
1991 bestseller #10; my grade: C

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni

Mary Higgins Clark died

In the midst of news about the impeachment, the Iowa caucuses, and the coronavirus, I missed seeing that novelist Mary Higgins Clark, “the Queen of Suspense” died on January 31. She was 92.

Her obituary in this week’s print issue of Time showed her sitting at her computer desk, her feet on a stack of books, a dictionary and other books open on the floor around her chair. Here’s a link to her Time obituary, here’s another to her Washington Post obituary, and here’s one to the New York Times obituary.

Clark began writing novels in the 1960s. The first of her novels to make the top 10 bestselling fiction list was While My Pretty One Sleeps in 1989. Her other bestsellers to make the top ten list in the 20th century are:

  • Loves Music, Loves to Dance (1991) to be reviewed here March 10, 2020
  • All Around the Town (1992), to be reviewed here April 14, 2020
  • Silent Night (1995), to be reviewed here July 25, 2020
  • Pretend You Don’t See Her (1997), to be reviewed here Oct. 6, 2020
  • All Through the Night (1998), to be reviewed here Nov. 17, 2020

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni

While My Pretty One Sleeps

Title page of "While My Pretty One Sleeps"Mary Higgins Clark’s While My Pretty One Sleeps is a traditional murder mystery in the “cozy” tradition, but set in New York City.

The novel opens with a man from New York driving 35 miles through a snow storm to dump the body of a woman he murdered beside a steep path in Morrison State Park.

Safely back in the city, he realizes “the one ghastly mistake he had made, and knew exactly who would almost inevitably detect it.”

The late Ethel Lambston hadn’t been a particularly popular woman. The 60-ish freelance writer had a knack for annoying people which she practiced until her tongue was lethal.

Her ex-husband had been so glad to be shut of her that he opted for life-long alimony payments that are keeping him and his second wife in poverty 20 years later.

Douglas, her nephew and sole living relative resents her treating him like a lackey.

Even the fashion designer Ethel paid to select her outfits for her, Neeve Kearny, didn’t like her much.

And Neeve’s father, former NYC police commissioner Myles Kearney, had met Ethel once and never wanted to see her again.

Well-plotted and well-paced, While My Pretty One Sleeps is formula fiction, but done well enough that readers won’t object.

While My Pretty One Sleeps by Mary Higgins Clark
Simon and Schuster. ©1989. 318 p.
1989 bestseller #10; my grade: B

©2019 Linda G. Aragoni