Mary Higgins Clark Essay, Research Paper
1 Mary Higgins Clark has written many novels and short stories over the years. She has concentrated most of her writing on mysteries and kidnapping. I will prove that Mary Higgins Clark begins and ends her novels with an element of suspense. The two novels I have chosen to cover throughout my research paper are Silent Night and The Anastasia Syndrome. The two short stories I have also covered are The Man Next Door and The Lost Angel.Silent NightSilent Night is a well written novel by Mary Higgins Clark. She starts this book by introducing the important characters of the novel. She then lays out a map for you to follow as she takes you on a wild and suspenseful ride. In the case of Silent Night she really does take you on a wild ride when a little boy is kidnapped as he tries to get his mother s wallet, which held the St. Christopher medal for his sick father. The main reason he goes after the wallet is because he wanted to give his sick father the St. Christopher medal which saved his grandfather in a war and was supposed to bring his father good luck to get well. The first suspenseful question the book begins with is finding out how the characters will fit into the plot. The first real anxiety of the novel begins early when Brian sees the wallet fall and the person pick it up. “As he watched, he saw the 2 wallet fall to the ground. He turned back to retrieve it, but before he could pick it up, a hand reached down and grabbed it.”1 This scene is what the rest of the novel is based on, Brian retrieving the wallet or actually the St. Christopher medal that is in it, and the mother finding her son with the help of the police. Marry Higgins Clark likes to lead her readers into interesting situations and then end the chapter with a cliff hanger, making her readers want to continue on and find out more. She begins the end of the novel by using foreshadowing for example she ends chapter nineteen with the kidnapper/escaped cop killer by saying “Why did I think I needed him [Brian]? He ached for the moment when he could be rid of the kid and be safe.”2 This obviously means the kidnapper will kill the kid at the next chance he can get. Mary Higgins Clark then finds ways to give the police the right leads, and make the characters say the right things with out making the novel too fake. She leads the reader through the twisted stories, making the reader want to know more and read on. As a reader, one can relate to her writings in everyday life; everyday on the news you hear of someone being kidnapped or killed. She includes everyday life into her novels. When asked what kind of characters Mary Higgins Clark liked to write about, she replied, “Nice people whose lives are invaded by evil. They are people with whom we can identify-leading ordinary lives and going about their business. My heroines are strong 3 women who take a major role in solving their own problems. A man may come in to help at the end, but the woman basically copes with the menacing situation herself.”3The Anastasia Syndrome The Anastasia Syndrome is another well written, suspenseful book written by Mary Higgins Clark. She does not start the book as usual by introducing all the characters who will take part, but instead introduces them as the exciting plot unfolds. The first suspense the reader comes across in this book, comes later than most of her novels written. It all starts when Judith, the main character of the book, has an elapsing memory of a little child running and buildings exploding. Immediately Judith goes to the psychiatrist against the will of her boyfriend, the soon-to-be next Prime Minister of England. While under hypnosis, she unleashes a second spirit in her. Mary Higgins Clark uses the ignorance of the reader s knowledge in the Anastasia Syndrome. By not revealing too much about it at the beginning of the novel, she knows how to lay on the wackiness of the plot. The real Anastasia Syndrome is an actual historical incident, when Anna Anderson attempted to convince the world that she was Anastasia, the Czar Nicholas II s daughter. Mary Higgins Clark uses this and suggests 4 through her main character that Anna Anderson was possessed by Anastasia s spirit. As the novel progresses there are three bombs set off by the spirit of “split personality” inside Judith s body. She has Scotland Yard in shambles trying to figure out if Judith or a look alike set the bombings in the very public places of King Charles I. The conclusion to the book is very dramatic, using many different aspects of the plot. Even when you think the ending of the book will be a happy, BOOM (literally)! The most suspenseful moment at the end of the novel was when Judith faces her imposter when she is deep in hypnosis. “She s calling for me. I won t turn! I won t!”4 The suspense moves on. “Judith!, look. Stephen is here. They re going to execute Stephen.” Judith whirled around and looked into the demanding, compelling gaze of Lady Margaret Carew. She began to scream, a frantic, terrified wail.”5 This is the first novel of Mary Higgins Clark I have read that does not end with a happy ending. This shows how Mary Higgins Clark can start and end her books with great suspense, and also throw in a little twisted plot in-between! Also, in not ending this novel with exactly a “happy ending”, it shows readers that the author can be diverse in her books and not have it be the same old story with a happy ending every time. I believe that every once in a while you need a good novel with a sad ending. Take the movies for example, there are many 5 “Blockbusters” that have happy endings. Very few do not have happy endings. Titanic, for example did not have a very happy ending. Yes, we knew the ship was going to sink, but we did not exactly know if Jack Daweson was going to die immediately after the ship went down or fifty years later. By not having a fairy tale ending to the “love story”, and with Titanic doing so well in the box office, it put Titanic in a different class, just like novels which have sad endings.The Man Next Door The Man Next Door is a well written short story by Marry Higgins Clark. Again she begins this short story by introducing all the characters first. The story begins with a man named August Mensch, a nut case the cops have been after for years for his connection with missing women. He lives next to Bree Matthews, a busy, working woman. Mary Higgins Clark does not waste her time in getting to the plot of the short story. She begins the suspense with Bree complaining to August that her roof leak is his fault. He finds an interest in Bree and then plans an attack. Mary Higgins Clark opens the short stories with creepy and suspenseful clues and sentences. “He had known for weeks that it was time to invite another guest to the secret place, the space he had fashioned out of the utility room 6 in the basement. It had been six months since Tiffany, the last one. She had lasted twenty days, longer than most of the others.”6 Mary Higgins Clark knows how to get the readers into her short stories and with an opening line like this she can grab many readers attention. Mary Higgins Clark is clever when writing her characters are kidnapped or mysteriously disappear. “He would remove enough cinder blocks to gain entry into her basement and bring her in through the opening.”7 By describing this in her short story, she does not have to leave unanswered questions. She describes to the readers what is going on in her characters heads. She manipulates the readers into becoming part of the short story as if one were the investigator or the person wanting to stop the violence in the short story. Mary Higgins Clark uses the FBI, Bree s cleaning lady, and Bree s boyfriend to help solve the mystery as to where Bree has gone. The suspense at the end of the short story comes quickly as they start uncovering clues and come close to finding her, you just don t know where Mary Higgins Clark will bring the reader next. The reader is still not sure if Bree will survive, even though they are so close to finding her. Finally, once the characters have all of the clues together and are banging down the door to get into August s place, one just doesn t know if he will kill her before Bree s boyfriend, Kevin Carter, will rescue her. “As Mensch
7 tightened his hands on Bree s neck, he suddenly felt his head yanked back, and a violent punch to jaw caused his knees to buckle.”8 Kevin Carter had just knocked August Mensch out and put him in a headlock. The FBI was there and ready to take him away. Like most of Mary Higgins Clark s novel and short stories, this ends with a happy ending.The Lost Angel The Lost Angel is yet again another brilliantly written book by Mary Higgins Clark. Again, the main plot is about kidnapping, yet unbelievably it grabs the reader s attention immediately. For the second time, she has started off without introducing all of the characters, but adding them in as the plot unfolds. It is the way Mary Higgins Clark introduces the plot which makes it suspenseful. A child who is taken from her mother by her wanted father, a fugitive of the FBI, disappears into New York City. As the reader is introduced into the plot one, automatically feels sorry for the mother of the lost child. “It had been a long night. Most of it had been spent awake, trying to overcome the fear that was her constant companion. Suppose she never found Jamie?”9 Amazingly, when Susan, the mother, was at work, a co-worker was reading a magazine with angels on the front cover; Susan grabbed the magazine and covered one of the 8 little girls heads with brown pen. This made the girl look exactly like her missing daughter. Stupidly enough, Tina, the father s girlfriend, brought Jamie to a modeling agency while Jeff was out of the country on business. This led to the capturing of Jeff and Tina. This still left you with finding Jamie. At the age of four Tina left her in the bus terminal and took off to Boston. The even greater suspense of the story is just as the mother was about to find her, Jamie was being picked up by a child rapist. “Sam, do you see whose on that line? It s that stinking child molester who didn t show up for trial. Come on!”10 The police spotted the rapist, and Susan saw Jamie praying into the window. “Dazedly, Susan walked toward Jamie. Her hungry arms stretched out, she bent over and listened as Jamie continued to beg, “Please, please Mommy come now.”11 It s great that three of the four stories had happy endings, but you always need those sad endings to balance everything out. Connecting the Novels and Short Stories All of the Mary Higgins Clark novels and short stories that I have read have some connections. They have either been connected by suspense, woman power, kidnapping, or twisting attractive plots. 9 Kidnapping seems to be a favorite of Mary Higgins Clark, three of the four books I read were about kidnapping and in all of the books they turned out to be happy endings. When Mary Higgins Clark was asked “What made you turn to the field of mystery and suspense?” she replied, “I decided to write a book that would, hopefully, outsell Aspire to Heavens. One of the best clues about what to write is what one likes to read. I decided to see if I could write a suspense novel. I was like a prospector stumbling on a vein of gold. I wrote Where Are the Children? – my first bestseller and a turning point in my life and career.”12 All the books that I read had a character who was distressed, or needed help. They all were connected by a tragedy in their lives, not only the main character but also the supporting characters, such as the mother in Silent Night and the mother in The Lost Angel. In every book there is a source of evil, this evil is shown in many ways. In the Anastasia Syndrome it was the spirit of Margaret Carew who controlled Judith, or the convicted cop killer in Silent Night, The father in The Lost Angel, and in The Man Next Door it was the next door neighbor August Mensch. Evil is in everyday life, and I believe that Mary Higgins Clark s novels and short stories are so successful because they relate so closely to real life situations. The Anastasia Syndrome was a different type of novel, it was not her typical kidnapping novel, but in a way it was kidnapping. When the spirit tries to overtake Judith, Judith s 10 spirit has to fight back so Margaret Carew s spirit would not take over her body. The big difference in this “kidnapping” is that she has to go through this alone and only her subconscious knows about it at first. These are the ways that the Mary Higgins Clark books that I have read tie into one another. It seems as though Mary Higgins Clark knows how to tie her novels together and keep the readers interested in very exciting plots that she introduces in her fantastic short stories and novels.About the Author: Mary Higgins Clark Mary Higgins Clark is a great novel and short story author. She started her fame by selling most of her stories to magazines. Mary Higgins Clark was born and raised in New York. At the age of ten her father died, she found this out by walking home from church one Sunday and seeing a huge crowd around her home. Her mother raised her and her two brothers, she was a single mom. Mary Higgins Clark was happily married in 1949, and had five children, they were left fatherless after the death of her husband due to a heart attack in 1964. She also raised her children, ranging in age from five to thirteen as a single mom. She started writing shortly after her husband died. She sold her writings to radio shows, then magazines, and finally published her first book called Aspire to the Heavens. She now has gone on and written many New York Times 11 Bestsellers, and has established her self as a great writer. As I was reading a special section in the back of Silent Night there is one quote that caught my eye. When Mary Higgins Clark was asked “Could you ever live a life of leisure?” she replied, “No-never. Somebody once said, If you want to be happy for a year, win the lottery; if you want to be happy for a lifetime, love what you do. That s the way it is for me-I love to spin yarns.”13 I have really enjoyed reading Mary Higgins Clark s books. They have been really interesting and for the second or third time in my life these books actually had me wanting to read them, I just couldn t put them down. I also admire the background and writing that Mary Higgins Clark has done. She is a very powerful author and really is the “Queen of Suspense”. I am looking forward to reading more of her books on my own.