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Before I Say Goodbye

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Three and one half moon gifSimon & Schuster (Hardcover), ISBN 0-684-83598-3
Each spring, I await Mary Higgins Clark's newest book with the same mixed emotions my sons greet my first rhubarb pie of the season -- anticipation and hesitancy. They're never sure the first bite will be worth the risk. (Just once I forgot the sugar.)  

Book: Mary Higgins Clark, Before I say GoodbyeFor several years, I hesitated to buy Clark's books for fear she'd disappoint me with a predictable or thin plot line and an even thinner book. But, like my sons, my mouth waters, and hope makes me bite. This year I greedily bit into Before I Say Good-Bye. The read -- sweet like this year's pie and familiar. I saw a glimmer of the author who wrote A Stranger Is Watching, Stillwatch and While My Pretty One Sleeps.  

After 21 books, readers should expect the familiarity of conversing with an old friend. We know Clark's style, flair and preference for beautiful, powerful characters. I can count on her consistently strong storytelling skill, her precisely arranged presentation of characters and twists, and perhaps best of all, her writing's simplicity and clarity. She gives me a dependable read, and that says a lot to someone who has waded through too many first novels sporting weak, ineffectual writing. Clark omits the groaners and cliches, the poorly constructed sentences and paragraphs. 

This year's book, set in New York, features Nell MacDermott. Nell moves in powerful circles, writes a political column, and lives surrounded by her eclectic possessions and beloved friends and relatives. Nell knows loss, but her heart remains pure. So pure, she possesses a psychic connection that breaks through in times of strife. An easily likeable young woman, she maintains a close relationship with her powerful political grandfather. Her relationship with her architect husband, Adam Cauliff, seems a bit shaky. But not to worry, he quickly becomes shark bait. 

Book: Mary Higgins Clark, We'll Meet AgainClark presents a cast of diverse and interesting characters who provide some unexpected clues that lead to an ending that hides a surprise or two. Yet, sadly the familiarity of this novel extends to an overused twist in the plot's core, not just Clark's welcome psychological suspense and readability.  

I love the author and darn it, she's a nice person. Perhaps her own larger-than-life story causes her fiction to pale in comparison. I felt a jolt of grief when I saw the title of this year's offering. But soon rejoiced at the news that we can look forward to at least five more books, and Mary Higgins Clark can spend the contract's $64 million on diamond jewelry and her grandkids. 

So what if her books lean toward predictable. Like this year's rhubarb pie, I found Before I Say Good-Bye a sweet treat. Do I want another bite? Ummm, not until next year, thank you. But definitely, I look forward to next year's sweet and tangy offering.

Dawn Goldsmith

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