Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Just Take My Heart by Mary Higgins Clark

Definitely needed something on the lighter side after Wintergirls. Mary Higgins Clark's Just Take My Heart filled the bill. Clark is one of the most prolific mystery writers, publishing a new novel each April. This is classic MHC with the parade of characters that enter and exit through the novel. In Just Take My Heart there are really two story lines, one involving the murder of Natalie Raines and the subsequent trial with prosecutor Emily Wilson and the second, the psychotic stalking of Emily by her next door neighbor, Zach, whom we learn is a serial killer.

Natalie has been dead a little over 2 years when evidence surfaces that Gregg
Alldrich, her estranged husband and always a person of interest in the case, is actually the murderer. The evidence is purely circumstantial, but deemed credible. Emily is assigned to try the case by DA Ted Wesley who is in line to become a high-ranking official in the Federal government. As she prepares her case and throughout the trial, the reader learns more about the private life of her. She has been left a widow when her husband Mark was killed in the Iraq War and she has had a heart transplant. As she prosecutes the case we see that the most and only compelling evidence comes from a career criminal/burglar, Jimmy Easton, who testifies that Gregg hired him to kill Natalie.

At the same time Zach has been finding ways to get into Emily's house. He has set up a microphone to hear her in the kitchen and has offered to watch out for Bess, Emily's dog, while she is preoccupied with the trial. We know what he is planning and can only hope that she figures it out quickly.

The novel is enhanced by two television shows
Courtside TV and Fugitive Hunt. They both have a role in the climax and conclusion to the novel. As I was reading this book and knew very early on how it was going to end, I became frustrated with "too easy to solve" mysteries. I have always enjoyed MHC books, but it seems that they have become more easily solved lately. I don't know if this is because I am so familiar with her writing or she has become a bit more formulaic. I have concluded that maybe I should not look at the books from the viewpoint of trying to solve the mystery, but instead trying to figure out how the protagonist will solve it. That adds a bit more to the reading of the book. I enjoy her stories and will continue to read them, but definitely with a different perspective now. Just Take My Heart is a good read when you want a light summer book.

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