Thursday, April 24, 2008

Quick Takes: Where Are You Now? by Mary Higgins Clark

Quick Takes are short features about books that we're not going to fully review at this point.

Premise: Carolyn's brother disappeared ten years ago when he walked out of his college apartment and was never seen again. He calls once a year, on Mother's Day, to let his family know that he's okay. This year, Carolyn has decided that she must find him. The case quickly becomes entwined with the disappearance of Carolyn's young neighbor, and Carolyn must delve into the past and present lives of everyone who knew her brother to figure out what's going on.

Thoughts: The reason this is a Quick Take rather than a review is because I didn't finish it. It was due back at the library today, and at about 12:30 last night I had 100 or so pages left and just wasn't enjoying it, so I gave up and just read the last few chapters. I will only review books that I've read in their entirety, but I may do Quick Takes on things I don't finish. But don't worry - I'll always tell you if I haven't read the whole thing.

I was really into Mary Higgins Clark for a while in my early teens, and then hadn't read her for years. I tried her 2007 novel, I Heard That Song Before, and thought it was a fun read, although nothing great, so I went ahead and started this one. I thought the plot of Where Are You Now? was fine. It wasn't anything particularly earth-shaking or memorable, but it was a decent suspense plot with perhaps a few too many characters.

The real problem I had with the book was the writing. Honestly, I'm not sure whether Clark's writing has deteriorated or whether my standards were lower ten years ago. Maybe it's a little of both. The grammar was okay, thank goodness, but the writing style reminded me of one of those old-fashioned, very didactic children's books in which everything everyone's thinking - and how the reader is supposed to feel about it - is carefully spelled out. The dialogue seemed completely unrealistic, and the interior monologues of the characters were just not written the way that real people think. The language was very formal and it was all about telling rather than showing. A few examples from the first chapter:

"First, I must find a way to track my brother down. What happened to him? Why did he disappear? There was no sign of foul play."

"When we were growing up, Mack was my best friend, my confidant, my pal. Half my girlfriends had a crush on him. He was the perfect son, the perfect brother, handsome, kind, funny, an excellent student. How do I feel about him now? I don't know anymore."

The character is clearly talking to the reader rather than actually thinking. I know this happens to some extent in all first person writing, but it was extremely exaggerated here - and the chapters that were in the third person had the same issue. This really kept me from getting into what could have been a quick, fun read.

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