Book review: Just Take My Heart, by Mary Higgins Clark

Heart Succumbing to a bank holiday offer of Just Take My Heart, Mary Higgins Clark’s umpteenth novel, at half-price in Borders, I spent a few happy hours in what I knew in advance would be an enjoyable and absorbing read. Mary Higgins Clark is completely reliable in delivering a suspenseful story about an independent heroine, an ordinary woman who has had to overcome personal tragedy and who is confronted by evil in some shape or form – which she faces and resolves according to her own wit, integrity and doggedness. These books are about fundamentally decent people – perhaps unrealistic, but always uplifting and guaranteed to raise the spirits.
Just Take My Heart is no exception. It tells the story of Emily Wallace, whose husband was killed in the Iraq war three years before the novel opens, and who is now a prosecutor. She is given a career-making case to try – that of Gregg Aldrich, a theatrical agent accused of killing his estranged wife, a renowned actress. The case is apparently open and closed, and much of the book is a traditional courtroom drama, with each side calling witnesses as the case plays out. The stronger her case, however, the less convinced is Emily that Gregg is guilty.
Various other typical Higgins Clark themes run through the novel – Emily is being stalked by a serial killer who lives next door and who has developed an unhealthy obsession with the attractive young lawyer. Emily’s boss, Ted, may be invited to take up a senior post in the new US President’s administration, so against her will, Emily gets caught up in manipulations and office politics. And of course there are a range of minor characters involved in the wealthy East Coast social scene from New York to New Jersey and Cape Cod.
The tension builds up as the jury returns a verdict – which far from achieving resolution, seems to throw up a whole new set of problems. Eventually, Emily realises she must look into the victim’s distant past in order to find out how she was killed – at the same time, understanding how she herself needs to accept her own husband’s death in order to move on with her own life.
Mary Higgins Clark delivers to a formula, but it is always superior formula, and I enjoyed this novel, like all her previous ones, very much. (I’m not so keen on her short stories or collaborative efforts.) Even though the solution to the mystery doesn’t seem to be that important, and the 'heart' theme perfunctory, the heroine, through sheer decency and honesty, with a dash of intelligence, comes good in the end, and the reader is right behind her, every step of the way.

3 thoughts on “Book review: Just Take My Heart, by Mary Higgins Clark

  1. I used to like her, but she has grown a bit too formulaic, I think, so I only read her if I have nothing else on my TBR (which hasn´t happened for a long time). A shame, really, because her debut, Where are the Children, was such a fantastic first.

  2. I think that she is not actually writing the books anymore: it happens… The magic is gone.

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