Book recommendation: Where Are the Children?, by Mary Higgins Clark

I’ve been reading Mary Higgins Clark novels for a very long time. I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I first picked up one of her books (I think I was around 12, but I’m not entirely sure), but I do remember picking the novel up. I was in a big-box store — I know exactly which one it was, too, but I won’t name it here — and I was browsing in the paperback aisle. The cover for Clark’s Daddy’s Little Girl caught my eye, and it didn’t take me long to decide I needed to read it. I went and found my mom, and she said I could buy it — though I no longer remember if I bought it myself or if she paid for it.

That novel still sits on my bookshelf, along with a number of Clark’s other books. But, despite how many I own and how many I’ve borrowed from friends or the library, there are still many Clark books I have left to read.

Up until recently, Where Are the Children? was one such unread novel for me. It was also one of the first novels Clark published, sending her down the path of a successful author.

After the loss of her two young children seven years ago, Nancy Eldridge has managed to move on with her life. She’s remarried, and has two new, wonderful kids. But one morning, all of Nancy’s worst fears come true: her past is revealed in her town’s newspaper, and the children she has with her new husband disappear. Once again, Nancy is being blamed for the disappearances. She fears she may never she her children alive again — unless someone can find out who’s actually behind the kidnappings.

Because of the multiple points of view in this novel, Clark was able to weave a story that is filled with tension. She slowly reveals bits of the past to her readers, letting them know what actually happened to Nancy and her children seven years ago — and what’s happening to them now. The story that comes to light is one that any parent would cringe over.

As in many of her other works, Clark includes the villain’s point of view in her narrative. This, I feel, helped to make the novel stronger. Not only does it add to the tension, it also gives readers an in-depth look into the mind of a killer. I found the villain to be one of the clearest, most consistent characters in the novel; I felt I understood who he was before we fully learned his identity, as well as why he was torturing Nancy the way he was. Not to say that I agree with his methods, of course — just that they made sense in terms of his character.

Goodreads summary

Nancy Harmon long ago fled the heartbreak of her first marriage, the macabre deaths of her two little children, and the shocking charges against her. She changed her name, dyed her hair, and left California for the windswept peace of Cape Cod. Now remarried, she has two more beloved children, and the terrible pain has begun to heal — until the morning when she looks in the backyard for her little boy and girl and finds only one red mitten. She knows that the nightmare is beginning again….

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