I haven’t read a Mary Higgins Clark (hereafter known as MHC) novel since high school, but when I did read them they were like Smartfood Popcorn…just one or two would not do. I had to have every single bite; every copy the library had. A guilty pleasure. The memory came back to me a couple of Sundays ago while I was fighting off yet another case of Sunday Blues (something I’ve unfortunately battled since childhood). I really, really hate Sundays and I have no rational reason for why. What I needed was something that didn’t require much concentration but could pass the time effortlessly until I went to bed. Then the answer came…I grabbed my Kindle and snagged a new MHC, I’ll Walk Alone.
It was exactly what I wanted. I downloaded it at about 6pm, and read all the way till 10pm without even realizing it. MHC is phenomenal when it comes to constructing a plot. You always know there’s going to be a surprise twist, it’s standard formulae. But the old bird keeps you guessing till the very end. If you’re not guessing, it’s because she doesn’t want you to and instead is playing with you in other ways–sending chills down your spine, making your pulse race, and all-in-all playing with your emotions in the most satisfying guilty-pleasure way. Aren’t those just the best?
There’s no literary greatness to an MHC. Her characters are all the same. The female protagonist always loves a glass of white wine with her homemade pasta while she’s wrapped in some sort of comfy robe. There is always a man with integrity, intelligence, and a burning passion for the female which will eventually come out in full force when she is in peril. I’m not even making fun, sometimes I love embracing the simplicity of extraneous novel details and getting down to plain and simple plot! Seriously, bookophiles…it’s okay.
There is one thing, however, that I just cannot ignore. The dialogue. It made me want to strangle a teddy bear. The woman can weave twists and turns with the best of them, but her dialogue is painfully stilted and forced. There’s a recurring shudder I could have done without. Which got me thinking how amazing the ‘bestseller’ process is. Truly the most interesting study of society today; when you can have the likes of Khaled Hosseini, J.K. Rowling, and Mary Higgins Clark all being ranked number 1 in different or (dare I say it?) same categories.
I’ll be the first to say I love a guilty pleasure novel when it comes to crime and legal issues. Call for a thriller junkie and I’ll wave my hand up there high. I’m not even remotely bothered to admit that after finishing I’ll Walk Alone, I immediately trolled for other books and got Stillwatch and Just Take My Heart (I know, that title made me cringe too…but the plot was so good!). I’ll still turn to her books when I’m looking for a quick fix, but I won’t stop sending out a silent plea to her editors, “Please. PLEASE. Rewrite the dialogue”.
Still, she gets a fantastic rating for me because anyone who can suck me into a novel till the bitter end and leave me wanting more DESPITE painful dialogue and lack of characterization deserves it. Truth.
And now you know my dirty secret.