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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

'I'll Walk Alone' by Mary Higgins Clark

Received from the Publisher

From the BLURB:

Two years after the day that her son, Matthew, was kidnapped in broad daylight in Central Park, Alexandra Moreland still finds herself torn between hope and despair. As no trace of Matthew was ever found, she has never been able to give him up for dead. But now, on what would have been Matthew's fifth birthday, photos surface that seem to show Alexandra kidnapping her own child.

Then, as her bank accounts are suddenly drained, and her reputation as a successful architect comes under immense pressure, Alexandra begins to suspect that someone is using her credit cards to steal her identity. But who would want to ruin her so completely?

Hounded by the press, under investigation by the police, attacked by both her angry ex-husband and a vindictive business rival, Alexandra, sustained only by her belief that Matthew is still alive, sets out to discover who is behind this cruel hoax. Little does she realize that with every step she takes toward the truth, she is putting herself -and those she loves most - in mortal danger.

Alexander “Zan” Moreland has lived through every mother’s worst nightmare – the abduction of her child. When he was just three years old, young Matthew Moreland was nabbed from his stroller while his babysitter slept nearby. For years after his disappearance Zan, at the time an up and coming architect, believed her former boss and business rival was responsible for her son’s kidnapping. She spent huge sums of money on private investigators and psychics in the search for her son . . . to no avail.

Two years later and Zan is dreading Matthew’s upcoming fifth birthday, yet another year she will have to mark his absence from her life. But then something happens that gives Zan hope that Matthew is still alive, coupled with the choking torment of false accusation.

A surveillance video surfaces of that awful day in Central Park, the day Matthew was taken. Except Zan appears in the grainy footage – or someone who looks like Zan – and she is seen taking Matthew from his stroller.

Shortly after this video surfaces, Zan’s accounts are drained and her identity stolen.

Suddenly the grieving mother becomes the number one suspect in a two-year old cold case. Zan’s friends think she killed Matthew and nobody believes that a doppelganger is out to wreck her life.

But is this identity theft, or is someone out there intent on stealing Zan’s entire life?

‘I’ll Walk Alone’ is the latest suspense thriller from Mary Higgins Clark.

If you can believe it, this is actually my first ever Higgins Clark read. Of course I have heard a lot about her, and even watched a few telemovie adaptations of her novels. But ‘I’ll Walk Alone’ is the first novel of hers I've read, and I’ve got to say it’s about time.

The novel opens with spine-tingling intrigue as a priest listens to the guilty confession of a mystery woman;
“I. . .” The woman paused, then the words came rushing out. “I know about a murder that someone is planning to commit and I can’t stop it.”
Her expression horrified, she clasped her hand over her mouth and abruptly stood up. “I should never have come here,” she whispered. Then, her voice trembling with emotion, she said “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. I confess that I am an accessory to a crime that is ongoing and to a murder that is going to happen very soon. You’ll probably read about it in the headlines. I don’t want to be part of it, but it’s too late to stop.”
She turned and in five steps had her hand on the door.
Thus begins Clark’s disturbing tale of kidnap and stolen identity. I was pretty much hooked from the start, following that perplexing opening chapter. What comes next is the heartbreaking story of young Matthew Moreland’s disappearance and his mother’s two years of torment wondering what became of her son . . .

When video footage surfaces of Zan Moreland kidnapping her son (followed shortly with the draining of her bank accounts) the story careens into a thrilling new trajectory of suspense. Zan is suddenly public enemy number one – a piranha in the community and vilified by the media. The police start asking questions about Matthew’s cold case and Zan’s friends all but turn their back on her. . . Clark really delves into the shattered psyche of an accused parent. We’ve seen it in the media again and again, dating back to the Azaria Chamberlain disappearance and the subsequent witch-hunt of her mother, Lindy Chamberlain.

I think what makes the spine-tingle and the goosebumps spread while reading this book is the ‘what if?’ aspect. A missing child is every parent’s worst nightmare, it’s the basis of every “don’t take candy from strangers!” teaching. And when coupled with the latest public paranoia of identity theft, Mary Higgins Clark has concocted a guaranteed thriller.

The initial storyline of Matthew’s kidnapping reminded me a little of the Michelle Pfeiffer movie about a kidnapped son who is found nine years later, ‘The Deep End of the Ocean’ (1999). But once the identity theft plot comes into play, the novel catapults into a whole new stratosphere of ‘worst nightmare’.

Kidnapped and missing children have (bizarrely and unfortunately) been at the centre of many news stories in recent years. The still-missing Madeleine McCann who was abducted in 2007, and more recently (and with a tragic conclusion) Zahra Baker.
My one complaint is perhaps to do with the wide scope of the novel. I thought a missing child storyline would offer plenty of juicy plot twists and turbulence, and sometimes I felt that the addition of an identity theft plot was just a little too much . . . but I suppose that’s what Higgins Clark is known for – her outlandish thrillers with killer twists.

Mary Higgins Clark’s latest novel is certainly a nail-biter. It takes us through an accused parent’s hopeless frustration with the police and media while she continues to hunt for her missing child. The novel veers into a cautionary tale of identity theft, and also plays-out a courtroom drama that will have you gritting your teeth. The twists and turns are fabulous and careening, even if the many thrilling storylines are somewhat over-cooked.

4/5

2 comments:

  1. I've never read this author before, but it sounds like an awesome thriller!

    Great review hon! =D

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  2. oh ~ i haven't read a mary higgins clark in ages. i was quite addicted to her when i was in high school :) thanks for the fab review. i think i'll have to pick this one up, hey.

    xx Nomes

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