The World of Clark

Posted on July 6, 2010


On the night when I can’t sleep, which is really most nights I often have this thing I do. Make lists. It’s a fun exercise, guaranteed to restore some order in your life and also lull you into sleep. In any case, on this particular night I was busy counting up the total number of   Mary Higgins Clarks I’d read including the latest one that I’d just finished earlier that night. Soon enough I was stuck trying to remember the title of one particular story. The memory lapse bothered me so much, that I spent the next day, writing out all the Clarks I’d read and hashed it over with my sister. I finally had to look it up online, but you get the point.

Clark’s books are my single point of best seller fixation. She is one of the few best seller authors whose books I’d buy based solely on the fact that she wrote them.

If the obviously ominous sounding titles are not clues enough, Clark’s books belong to the thriller/murder mystery/best seller hybrid genre of fiction, a genre that I really, really dig. While essentially dealing with crime and crime solving, the stories do not follow the investigative procedural with the trademark  detective character pathway. In a sense, they have an Agatha Christie meets Sidney Sheldon vibe where there is the traditional whodunit or in the case of Clark, who is going to do it again which combines with a best seller like narrative style.

Well crafted plots of mystery and suspense with an engaging B-storyline, strong characters and descriptive writing all which combine to make a good read, she has a flair for providing gripping narratives without necessarily going over the top in the sensation department. The central characters in all of her books are women in the midst of danger and lurking threats. Often they come from a traumatic/unhappy past which invariably leads to a connection to the present danger that they find themselves in.  The plots mostly deal with how a character manages to solve the problem and unmask the person at the root of it all.  The author chalks out resourceful, urbane, rational and smart women characters who can hold their own without making them out to be super human crime solvers and that’s where she deserves credit.

Clark’s books also have an interesting way of detailing and delving into criminal psychology. The murderer while obviously being the ominous shadow, who looms over the narrative, also has a fully sketched out identity in the stories. He or she comes with a past, a story which thankfully does not become a justification. A multiplicity of characters gives the books different voices and succeeds in spreading the net wider so there’s almost no way of accurately guessing whodunit till you at least get half way.  The psychic phenomena is often incorporated into the stories with ESP, clairvoyance and telepathy being common themes or devices in moving a story forward.

The predictability quotient as with any author gets higher and higher as you begin reading their books one after the other. It doesn’t go unnoticed though that the protagonists are almost uniformly white, attractive, upper middle class women with lucrative careers in wealthy suburbs or neighbourhoods. Clark’s signature patterns of story telling become easy to see through and if you’ve read enough of them, you kind of know quite soon on what direction the book will take. What still keeps me hooked though is  the fact that each book starts with a new premise and always makes an earnest attempt to allow the reader a glimpse into the psyche of the villain.

Here I present, three of my top favourite Mary Higgins Clarks and why I like them-

I’ll be seeing you– My first tryst with the works of Clark . In I’ll be seeing you, a reporter investigates the shade under goings at a In-vitro Fertility Clinic while  dealing with the  mysterious nature of her father’s fatal accident and the consequences of his past actions. The premise which quite doesn’t present itself as neatly as my one line description unfolds over the course of the book and makes for a very interesting read. Meghan Collins, the protagonist is one of Clark’s best characters.

On the Street where you Live–  A lawyer , gets entangled in the middle of serial killings that happened a hundred years apart.   Trying to get away from a bad divorce and a traumatic stalking, Emily buys her old family home in New Jersey, where the body of her ancestor is buried under the pool.  As she delves into the past, she stumbles upon present dangers leading to a solid climax. Deserves kudos for just the incredible amount of creep factor.

# Loves Music, Loves to Dance– Takes us into the unusual and seedy world of personal classifieds. Best friends, Erin and Darcy answer classifieds as part of research for a TV producer friend. Erin disappear after one of her dates with her body discovered later with one dancing shoe on.  Darcy sets out to find the killer. Another serial killer premise with a definite twist, its setting makes it different and interesting to read.  The past murder sub-plot, a common theme in Clark’s books is one of the best written segments of the whole book.

Posted in: Books, Fiction, Literature