Posted in All Book Reviews

Review: The Sleeping Beauty Killer (By Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke)

Source: Goodreads

Length: 302 pages

My rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars

Casey Carter was on the verge of her happily-ever-after when she got engaged to Hunter Raleigh III, a renowned businessman, beloved philanthropist, and potential political candidate whose family was nothing less than political royalty. But then Hunter was found murdered, two gunshots ending his life, and Casey left with blood and gunpowder residue on her hands. In spite of her claims that she’d been drugged and unconscious during the murder, Casey is convicted for manslaughter.

Fifteen years later, Casey returns to society, but feels like a pariah. Although everywhere she goes, people look at her like she’s guilty, she is determined to prove that she hadn’t murdered the man she loved. She approaches Laurie Moran, host of Under Suspicion, a show that opens cold cases, in the hope that Laurie could help her tell her side of the story, and find Hunter’s real killer. As Laurie and her team begin investigating the events that took place on the night of the murder and the people who had made up Casey’s past, Laurie finds herself close to believing that Casey is truly innocent. In her search for the truth, Laurie finds herself facing a new, egotistical co-host, a skeptical boss, protective family members, and a host of questions whose answers are not even remotely as simple as they should be. But the largest question that continues to plague her at every step is whether Casey is really innocent or did the woman that society named The Sleeping Beauty Killer actually murder Hunter?

The Bottom Line:

An extremely basic mystery that does not do justice to its apparent genre of thriller or suspense.

My take:

Let Me Call You Sweetheart was the first Mary Higgins Clark book I’d read, and I’d absolutely fallen in love with the author. I read most of her books over the years. While not all of them have been great, I think it’s safe to say that The Sleeping Beauty Killer was downright disappointing.

Essentially, the book is a simple mystery. The version I read had a quote on the cover from the Guardian saying, “Scared the hell out of me.” The claim is consistent with the reaction that people have when reading Clark’s work; her books are eerie, suspenseful, and unpredictable. So I obviously went in expecting that. But there was absolutely nothing of that sort in the book.

It’s got an interesting enough story with the kind of characters you’d expect from Clark. There are some twists and turns that, although not unpredictable, are interesting enough to keep you turning the pages. That is actually the only reason the book is good enough for a 1.5-star rating. Other than a mildly interesting presentation of a mildly interesting story, the book doesn’t have much to offer, especially for fans of Clark’s older works.

A few things that were really disappointing was the absolute lack of a thrill factor. I don’t need people jumping out from dark corners at me, but I do expect some element of thrill or even suspense, which I didn’t see in The Sleeping Beauty Killer. What was even worse was that the book was so unbelievably predictable – I’m not talking about the who, but also the why and how. There’s little point in reading a book when you already know the end (that too so early on in the book), other than to just find out if you were right.

My biggest problem with the book, though, was the characterization. This is the first book I’ve read in the Under Suspicion series, but the first few pages are enough to get the idea that Laurie Moran is an accomplished woman who’s seen hard times and come through them gracefully. Which is why I couldn’t understand why she chose to randomly titter like a sixteen-year-old. I’m not saying older women are expected to be serious or boring all the time, but there were these parts that were downright cringy, mainly because they seemed so out of character for the personality that Laurie is shown to be. The times where she was a normal adult but still having fun didn’t come across like that, which is what made the contradiction even worse.

And that inconsistency was in almost every character. Even Casey herself. It almost seemed like the author(s) couldn’t determine whether to make Casey strong, weak, mean, kind, gentle, or harsh; so instead of including a little bit of all these traits in a symbiotic manner, they just gave her random extremes of them whenever they pleased.

All in all, the book seemed very… amateur (the bookish dialog didn’t help). There is no dearth of crime fiction and crime thriller in the world today. Jeffery Deaver, David Baldacci, Simon Beckett, Tim Weaver, and Mark Edwards are just some of the names that come to mind when I think of detailed, layered, thrilling, suspenseful, and eerie reads in the genre (check out the reviews to some of their books I’ve absolutely loved, linked to their names above). Authors, seasoned and new, are getting better with each book that they pen. But with each book, Mary Higgins Clark seems to be continuing her descend from the pedestal on which her work had, justifiably, placed her. I still remember books like On The Street Where You Live (which I’d found brilliant) and A Cry In The Night (check out the review for that one here) which was quite good. Then, more recently, I read As Time Goes By, and that was a good book but was still incredibly predictable and just not as enjoyable as her previous works (more detailed review available here). But I have to admit that The Sleeping Beauty Killer finds a place at the bottom in my pile of Clark’s books. I’m definitely not reading more of the Under Suspicion series unless I decide to just read something light, fast, and not overly complicated.

So, should you read The Sleeping Beauty Killer? Yes, if:

  • you’ve read the Laurie Moran Under Suspicion books before and enjoy the character and series
  • you enjoy Clark’s more recent works
  • you enjoy uncomplicated, linear mysteries

But definitely not, if:

  • you want mystery that comes with thrill and suspense
  • you love unpredictability
  • you loved Clark’s older works (that makes this book disappointing on numerous levels)

Don’t go yet! Share your thoughts on how Clark’s work has progressed over the years according to you, drop a recommendation, or simply say Hi! in the comment section below!

Thanks for stopping by!

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews

Review: As Time Goes By (By Mary Higgins Clark)

Source: Goodreads

Length: 278 pages

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Betsy Grant is on trial for the murder of her husband, renowned Dr. Ted Grant, who had suffered from Alzheimer’s for eight long years. The evidence against her is strong, and even her lawyer believes that accepting a plea bargain may be her best option. But Betsy refuses. She will fight to prove her innocence.

The trial is being covered by up-and-coming journalist, Delaney Wright. The sensational murder trial is the biggest story of her career and puts her right in the limelight. Sitting in the courtroom, day after day, Delaney begins to believe that, in spite of the damning evidence, Betsy Grant is innocent. Yet, another matter fills her thoughts. She can no longer ignore the growing desire to locate her birth mother. As the case progresses, Delaney turns to her friends Alvirah and Willy to ask for help in locating her mother.

And as they begin to uncover the details of Delaney’s birth and adoption, Delaney herself begins to work to prove Betsy’s innocence. But she faces one challenge after another as she finds herself caught in the intricate web spun by the real killer – someone who has gone to great lengths to murder Dr. Grant, and someone who will do whatever it takes to keep their identity a secret.

My take:

If you’ve read Mary Higgins Clark before, you’ll know what to expect from this book – unpredictability, great suspense, and an amazing story. And it delivers… for the most part.

As Time Goes By is an interesting story with numerous storylines that come together at the end in classical Clark style. It has also got the large gamut of characters you expect from her work, their relationships and connections revealed in time. And, it’s also written in that typical, fast-paced style of hers that keeps you turning the pages frantically in an effort to know what’s next.

What it doesn’t have, though, is that strong unpredictability element that was a massive part of Clark’s older works. It is predictable on most aspects, which takes some of the fun out of reading a Mary Higgins Clark. Also, it’s an Alvirah and Willy mystery which, as I discovered, aren’t as much fun as her other series because I found the detective duo to be missing the depth and complexity that her other characters have.

All in all, the book has the suspense, the mystery, the likable characters, and the story, that make for a good crime fiction read. You should definitely go for it if you’re a regular Mary Higgins Clark reader. But if it’s your first time with the author, then you should opt for something else. I’d started with Let Me Call You Sweetheart and although I remember very little of that story, I vividly remember absolutely loving it. But, like me, if you’re getting back to Clark after a while, As Time Goes By is a decent place to start. It definitely made me remember why I used to love her work. And I’ve already begun adding her books to my to-be-read (and re-read, in some cases) list.

Recommended to:

  • Fans of Mary Higgins Clark
  • Those who’ve not read her work for a while
  • Die hard fans of crime fiction (because any Clark book would be a good addition)
  • Anyone looking for a quick crime fiction read (even at 278 pages, it moves along really fast)

Let us know what you thought of As Time Goes By or drop us some recommendations in the comments below!

– Rishika

Posted in All Book Reviews

Review: A Cry in the Night (By Mary Higgins Clark)

A Cry in the Night Source: Goodreads
A Cry in the Night
Source: Goodreads

Length: 320 pages

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Jenny MacPartland works at an art gallery, is divorced from her husband, is raising two girls alone, and has little time to think of anything but how to make the next month’s bills. Yet, she is as happy as she can be. But when Erich Krueger steps into her life, her idea of happiness is turned around. Erich is a recently discovered painter, one who is gaining international acclaim. Erich is rich, handsome, charismatic, and seems smitten with Jenny from the moment they meet as her gallery that hosts his paintings. And Erich, with his sensitive and kind nature, makes her truly happy.

A month later, they are married and Jenny and her daughters move to Erich’s vast Minnesota farm. And that is where the nightmare begins. Days are lonely and nights are disturbing; and the home that was meant to be her sanctuary slowly begins to become her prison. Nightmares keep her awake even as she grasps onto love as a reprise. But the mansion and farm hold more secrets than she had ever thought possible. Every day, Jenny’s patience is tested, her faith is tested, and her sanity is tested. Until finally she is forced to try and discover the truth before her marriage, her children, and her life fall prey to the secrets and a macabre past that won’t stay buried.

My take:

Mary Higgins Clark has always been one of my favorite authors and I’ve read almost all of her books at least once. She has a way of bringing creepiness and thrills into a book that few others have. To that aspect, A Cry in the Night does not disappoint.

The book gives you enough chills to have you looking over your shoulder and is gripping enough to keep you reading well into the night. Clark’s older works were some of her best when it came to the creepy quotient and this book testifies to that fact. It has all the  much loved sinister happenings, suspense, and twisted characters you would expect from an older book by Clark. It also has all the things that you may have found missing from her more recent work, giving it a definite edge of her now-available, not too creepy stories.

As far as characterization goes, I thought that all the characters were really easy to associate with – their weakness, strengths, and relationships had a nice curve that you could see developing. Jenny, who is forced to live a life all alone finds love in the man who shows her tenderness. While this may seem to some like the attitude of a weak woman, it isn’t too unreal to imagine. She doesn’t fall for him because he’s rich or handsome; she falls for him because she finally meets the man who understands her – a man who gives her all the love and care that she desired from her first husband.

The other characters evolve similarly. And the best part of the characterization, in my opinion, was the mind set of a small village that Clark has painted to aptly. An outsider and city girl, Jenny needs to adjust to the lifestyle of a smaller town. Her reaction to the house, the farm, the people, and the town as well as their reaction to her was depicted much like you would expect such situations to play out. Throw in the fact that the story moves quick and is gripping, the book moves along at a fast pace that doesn’t really lose its track anywhere.

That being said, it still wasn’t as good as other books of hers; and that’s why I would give it a 3.5 rather than a 4 star rating.

The first thing that the book didn’t have going for it was, oddly enough, its speed. While it was great that the book moved along at a fast pace, I wish that it didn’t do so by simply cutting chunks of time out altogether. In one sentence in the middle of a page, you will read about the present and in the next sentence, it will be a couple of days or even a week later. Those kinds of jumps seemed altogether too abrupt and I would have liked to see a little more continuity in the way that events unfolded.

The second thing that pulls down the appeal of the book was its predictability. Maybe it’s because you’ve read too many of Clark’s books or too many books in the genre, but the book is highly predictable, down to some very minute details. So in the end, you’re not exactly left with a feeling of, ‘Did not see that coming!’

Even with its jumps and predictability, the book still holds its own thanks to Clark’s way of making things really creepy and gripping. In spite of its shortcomings, I did stay up late to know the end. It doesn’t matter then if you’re awake because you just need to know what happens or because you want to confirm if what you think will happen actually happens. The point remains that you did stay up!

All in all, this is one of Clark’s better books, reminiscent of her older, trusted style that comes with the right doses of chemistry, story, and chills. If you’re a Mary Higgins Clark fan and haven’t read this one, then you definitely should pick it up. If you’ve never read her work before, this isn’t the best one to start with but can definitely do if you don’t have too many other options. And if you love any book that’s in the genre of mystery and suspense, then this one will make an interesting and quick read, even if you probably figure out how it will end much before time.

– Rishika