In addition to 25 novels, Mary Higgins Clark has written short stories, a memoir and co-authored three suspense novels with daughter Carol Higgins Clark. She's one of the most popular storytellers in the world, as seen in the sale of more than 80 million of her books. Her newest endeavor, TWO LITTLE GIRLS IN BLUE, is a chilling and timely tale that explores the phenomenon of "twin telepathy" and "twin talk" in the context of a brutal kidnapping. Clark explains the genesis of this novel in her own words:
"The telepathy that exists between some people has always fascinated me. From early childhood I can remember my mother, a worried frown on her face, saying, 'I have a feeling about…' And as sure as day follows night, that person was experiencing…a problem.
I have used telepathy to a degree in some of my books, but the bond that exists between twins, particularly identical twins, is nothing short of fascinating. This subject has been growing in my mind as the plot of a novel for a long time."
TWO LITTLE GIRLS IN BLUE immediately captures the reader's attention. A new job has brought young Margaret and Steve Frawley and their two daughters to Connecticut, where they bought and moved into an old farmhouse, a "fixer-upper." And as the book opens readers learn, "Today…was the third birthday of the identical twin girls" and they were wearing identical blue dresses. Nineteen-year-old Trish Logan was hired for the day to help with the party, then to stay for the evening while the parents [Margaret and Steve Frawley] attended a black-tie dinner in New York.
Trish is relaxing on the phone with her boyfriend when she thinks she hears one of the girls crying. She "put down her cell phone, got up…and hurried across the living room. After the excitement of the party, I'd have thought the kids were dead to the world, [she] thought as she started up the stairs, headed to the twins' room. Near the top…she paused. The light she had left on in the hall was off." In such old houses fuses burn out all the time, she mused. But at once she noticed that the door to the children's room was closed and she was absolutely sure she left it open.
"Suddenly frightened, she listened intently…[and] in an instant of sickening awareness…[she heard] soft footsteps. A hint of equally soft breathing. The acrid smell of perspiration." Before she could scream or run she was grabbed from behind, a cloth was crushed against her nose and mouth, and she crumpled to the floor. When she's completely unconscious the intruders, two unhinged men, take the twins and bring them to a dilapidated shack where the psycho girlfriend of one of them is waiting to "be their mother."
The young parents are broken and in deep shock. But Margaret keeps holding and touching the blue dresses --- they are a link to something, but she just can't get information into a clear memory. When the ransom call comes, the couple is told to address the caller as the "Pied Piper." His ransom demand is eight million dollars if they want their children to come home. They are further devastated. How in the world can they even begin to raise that amount of money? They simply can't. Steve is a new employee at a global investment firm but feels he cannot go to management for help. Then a good Samaritan, a successful businessman and neighbor, steps in and convinces the board that in light of recent bad press they can wipe the slate clean if they anti up the ransom. They do.
Once armed with this information, the kidnappers devise a complex and physically demanding plan for the drop-off. First they promise to leave the girls at an abandoned restaurant parking lot, locked in a car and safe. Then they send the courier into a labyrinthine marathon run through New York City with the money. But of course things don't work out as planned and serious consequences emerge.
Mary Higgins Clark is so good in her ability to tap into the visceral fears hidden deep inside every parent's psyche, the notion of being helpless in the face of the horrendous acknowledgment that one can protect a youngster "up to a point." Yet in telling this brutal story, Clark tempers her insights and observations using devices such as "twin talk" and the "psychic connection" between the girls. Readers will not be disappointed in TWO LITTLE GIRLS IN BLUE. Rather, they will find it thought-provoking and very timely.
Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on January 24, 2011