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Gurglings of a Putrid Stream

Thoughts on books and other assorted topics.

See also:  http://goppf.wikidot.com/swstart

My name:  Brian Martin

Where Are the Children? by Mary HIggins Clark

Where Are the Children? - Mary Higgins Clark

Mary Higgins Clark's second novel and her first suspense novel.

Number 50 on the Mystery Writers of America's list "The Top 100 Mystery Novels of All Time." This list also includes Agatha Christie's book, The Witness for the Prosecution. Oh, wait. That was a short story, not a novel. Memory is a funny thing, isn't it? Not only can it turn short stories into novels, I think it can turn novelty into greatness. My 30th Anniversary Edition of Clark's book includes an Introduction by Clark in which she states that at the time of publication, child molestation was still largely a taboo subject. In fact, she says, two publishers turned the book down because of it. Simon & Schuster got lucky--or were the only publisher who recognized the value of novelty.

Where Are the Children? isn't a great book. Stripped of its novelty value, it's revealed as a competently written thriller with serviceable characters and a sufficiently dreadful plot. Good, but uninspired. If the MWA's list had been a ranking of 100 random mystery novels, putting this one in at No. 50 sounds about right: middle of the road. That's not a bad thing. Having just read Coma--a wildly implausible tale populated by preposterous characters--this couldn't be more clear.

Though nearly 50 years have erased the taboo-skirting enticements the book once offered, it's interesting to note that the bad guy remains one of the story's most compelling elements. Clark avoids explicitness in favor of suggestion, but he comes through for all that: he's a creepy creep and that's a fact.

Based in part on the Alice Crimmins case, of a young wife and mother accused of killing her two children.