Somehow after thirty acclaimed novels, Mary Higgins Clark’s creative stream has yet to run dry. With her recent release, Just Take My Heart, Clark protects her title of “Queen of Suspense” and provides a great model of what a “page-turner” should look like.
Switching between New York and New Jersey home fronts the book bridges the world of celebrity-studded theater and courtroom prosecutions. When acclaimed Broadway star Natalie Raines is found shot, lying in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor of her suburban New Jersey home accusations point toward her soon-to-be ex-husband, Gregg Aldrich. However, Aldrich vehemently professes his innocence, and without any hard evidence tying him to the crime the case runs cold. Two years after the murder, a career conman, Jimmy Easton, steps forward and claims Gregg hired him to kill Natalie but he backed out after accepting a $5,000 advance. This confession sends shock waves throughout the community but gives assistant prosecutor Emily Wallace the ammunition to finally bring Natalie’s killer to justice. As bits of missing information trouble Emily, her resolve beings to falter and a seemingly open-and-shut case becomes muddled. The question running throughout the book is does Emily have what it takes to put Natalie’s killer behind bars, does she even have the right man?
Clark draws readers in through her raw, emotional portrayals. Readers may have never experienced the murder of a loved one or stood on trial for allegedly killing someone they love, but reading this work forces the audience to question their own limits and the lengths they would go to in order to hang on to someone they love.
Clark rivets readers by seamlessly juxtaposing impossible twists with characters so real readers will have no difficulty imagining them shopping in the local grocery store or taking a morning jog through the neighborhood. It is this extraordinary ordinariness Clark supplies her characters with that gives readers a vested interest in the text—you come away feeling like you’ve just read a story about your cousin or your best friend’s brother. .
Of course, that doesn’t mean the author doesn’t like to make things interesting. Amidst the routine structured court proceedings, Clark throws in some patented twists—a serial killer here, a life threatening surgery there—just in case readers become too comfortable with the text. Reading this book is basically like watching all the versions of Law & Order rolled in to one.
For anyone familiar with Clark’s work the story may become a little too recognizable by the end. The author has clearly found a successful framework for writing suspense novels. After thirty books at least a touch of redundancy and predictability is bound to seep in. But, who can blame the woman for sticking to a largely fool-proof formula, when on the whole this novel stands alone just as well as any other one picks off the shelf.
Just Take My Heart is just one more notch on Clark’s long belt of successful stories. Fans will undoubtedly race through the nearly 400-page ride of thrilling turns, breathlessly awaiting the culmination of a plot so massive it seems a living entity in its own right. And just when the story seems to come to an end, Clark masterly integrates yet another shock that will effectively “take” the hearts of many readers.
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