Today, Hartford Books Examiner reviews Daddy’s Gone A Hunting (Simon & Schuster, $26.99) by Mary Higgins Clark.
Published earlier this month, Daddy’s Gone A Hunting is Clark’s thirty-second novel of suspense; the author will appear at the Wilton Library this Friday evening (5/3) for a discussion and signing. (See event details below.) Known as America’s “Queen of Suspense,” Clark’s prolific career also includes three collections of short stories, a historical novel, two children’s books and a memoir. Additionally, she has collaborated with her daughter, Carol Higgins Clark, on five holiday suspense novels. Her books have sold more than 100 million copies in the United States alone.
This particular story opens with a bang (literally): an early morning explosion at a family-owned furniture firm, Connelly Fine Antique Reproductions, in Long Island City that levels the property, leaving one person dead and another gravely injured. The deceased, Gus Schmidt, was a disgruntled craftsman who was forced into retirement. Found alongside Gus is Kate Connelly, a granddaughter of the company’s founder. Though alive, her condition has resulted in a coma that leaves her unable to refute the widespread suspicion that she and Gus conspired to start the fire.
Kate’s sister, Hannah, is no stranger to tragedy. She was left motherless when a boating accident claimed the lives of Susan Connelly, her uncle, Connor, and four others. Her father, the widower Douglas Connelly, has not been the same since barely surviving that incident, taking refuge in the excesses of alcohol and younger women. Consequently, the relationship between father and daughters has been strained – and is pushed to the absolute breaking point when Hannah begins to question his motivations in terms of the business and Kate’s well-being.
A fashion designer with a promising future, Hannah is fully committed to exonerating her sister and only hopes that Kate will survive to tell the truth of what happened that fateful night. Meanwhile, Kate is struggling to overcome a life-threatening fever and regain consciousness. She’s also having flashbacks of events that leave her vulnerable to harm but cannot express this to the outside world. These short passages, interspersed throughout the narrative, are perhaps the book’s most effective, as they draw readers in with their deceptive simplicity.
While the circumstances surrounding the fire provide what are perhaps the book’s most burning questions, Clark incorporates several other mysteries – including the disappearances of an aspiring actress and a war veteran – that allow her to explore themes of grief, justice, and PTSD. Though some of the plot’s ultimate revelations might strike readers as relying heavily on coincidence, they also allow for a poignant subtext while proving that Clark’s mind is still as nimble as ever.
With Daddy’s Gone A Hunting, Mary Higgins Clark has crafted a timeless saga of suspense that is both sinister and surprising without relying on the gratuitous elements of crime fiction. This old-fashioned yet refreshing approach coupled with Clark’s appealing characters, subtle humor, and heartfelt sense of humanity shows that, after nearly four decades, she is still the proof that good storytelling never goes out of style…
Mary Higgins Clark will appear at the Wilton Library this Friday evening, May 3rd, at 7 PM. There is no charge to attend this event but reservations are required; they can be made online or by calling 203-762-3950, ext. 213. Books will be available for purchase and signing courtesy of New Canaan’s Elm Street Books. The library is located at 137 Old Ridgefield Road in Wilton.