A Cry In The Night (Mary Higgins Clark)

This is classic MH Clark. She takes the reader to the edge of anticipation, excitement, and makes you feel like you are hiding in a closet/wardrobe/cupboard – take your pick,  peeking in on what’s happening. I like all her older novels but none of the ones she’s written in the last 20 years. If you don’t mind having an unorthodox protagonist then this novel (first published in 1982) is fantastic and eerie–not every book has to have a strong leading character. Our heroine is pretty passive by modern western standards, virtually helpless, and this may upset the feminists and others who are used to women being more pro-active these days.

In this wonderfully creepy book the main character, Jenny, is a struggling mother of two young girls. She meets Erich, a man who seems to be her ultimate Prince Charming. After this rich, handsome, and sensitive fellow whisks her off her feet – after a one week romance – to live in his mansion she discovers he’s far from the man she expected. Her new husband is mother fixated, manipulative, abusive and possibly something even worse. Jenny’s feelings of being stalked, paired with her dawning realization that her children are in danger, comes across with visceral impact. It made me feel positively uneasy. It’s a fast read, and although it starts off slow it does build momentum quickly. Towards the end it’s hard to put down.

There are many scary occurrences. When Jenny finds the painting, the horror is detailed so well that I could see it perfectly. The writing is accessible and the dialogue fast-moving, with easily digestible chunks that enhance the suspense and push the story to its frightening climax. This is a good suspense book despite its old-fashioned heroine. I had some minor problems with Jenny that I’m pretty sure didn’t bother me years ago…relating mainly to how weak, naïve, and just plain unlikely she is. Jenny tolerates many of Erich’s growing eccentricities for much longer than is realistic. A more subtle approach to her villain might have led the reader up the garden path to a more less predictable surprise at the finale.

It’s hard to imagine a modern woman accepting such dependence and isolation and being completely romantically focused on her man despite annoyances such as his continual talking about Caroline. I just had a hard time seeing past that, especially when she’s sick during her pregnancy. On the one hand she’s hard to get behind and support. But on the other hand, reading about what happens to this old-fashioned innocent woman as a result of her rushing into a relationship with someone she barely knows is very suspenseful – scary, inevitable, shocking. The book managed to hook, then disturb me for a second time. It has an effective combination of romance and mystery, and it held my attention throughout.

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