September 11, 2011

Mary Higgins Clark's Where Are You Now?


Mary Higgins Clark is a masterful storyteller and widely read author of suspense novels. According to her publishers, Clark’s books have sold more than 100 million copies in the U.S. Her first mystery novel, Where Are the Children?, became an instant bestseller in 1975 and her next book, A Stranger is Watching, won the prestigious Grand Prix de Littérature Policière for best mystery novel. Each of her subsequent books have been bestsellers and more than 20 have been adapted for film. In 2000, Clark was awarded the Grand Master Award for lifetime achievement. She has served as President of the Mystery Writers Association of America and has received 13 honorary doctorates. Since 2001, the Mary Higgins Clark Award has been given in her honour by the Mystery Writers Association of America.

Author of 29 suspense novels, Clark also worked as a radio script writer, advertising assistant, radio producer, and partner in a communications firm. When her husband died suddenly in 1964 leaving her to raise 5 children under the age of 13, Clark turned to writing as a career. Her first book was a biography of George Washington. Clark then taught herself to write mysteries by studying Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca (see my post on the novel).

Where Are You Now? is the story of a missing 21-year-old Columbia University student. Charles MacKenzie Jr., or Mack as he is known to friends and family, has been missing for 10 years. Each year on Mother’s Day, he calls home but refuses to divulge his whereabouts. Mack’s 26-year-old sister, Carolyn, decides that it is time to track him down. As she delves deeper into her brother’s past, she uncovers startling facts that endanger her life.

Clarke’s fictional world is a fast-paced urban one, an unusual choice for a writer of cozy mysteries. When asked why she sets so many of her novels in New York, she replied, “I was born and raised in New York City. It is the premier city of the world. I think most readers have a certain fascination for New York and would like to visit it. I help them to visit it in my books.” She depicts the city as both glamorous and dangerous.

Clark takes as her subject ordinary people in horrifying situations; terror in her novels emerges from the everyday. As she told an interviewer, “I write about very nice people whose lives are invaded” (Abbe 2004, 20). Like du Maurier, she is skilled at tapping into our deepest fears.

Where Are You Now? – like all her novels – is a plot-driven book that is hard to put down. Clark has said that a good mystery novel is “all about storytelling. It begins and ends with telling a good story” (Abbe 2004, 20). Be prepared to stay up much later than you expect once you start Where Are You Now?

Abbe, Elfrieda. “Mary Clark Higgins: A Diabolical Mind at Work.” The Writer 117, no. 12 (2004): 20.

Clark, Mary Higgins. Where Are You Now? New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008.