Review

Just Take My Heart

by Mary Higgins Clark

JUST TAKE MY HEART by Mary Higgins Clark presents a puzzle whose
pieces tantalize readers from the first sentence to the final
paragraph.

Assistant District Attorney Emily Wallace is given the case of a
lifetime. Actress Natalie Raines was murdered two years ago, but
nobody was ever charged with the crime. That is, until now, when
career criminal Jimmy Easton comes forward to say the woman’s
husband approached him with a plan to kill her. After a due
diligence investigation, Gregg Aldrich, also Natalie’s
theatrical agent, is indicted. But he insists that he is innocent
and would never hurt the woman he loved with all his heart, despite
their impending divorce. He was obsessed with his wife and never
made a secret of it. He and his 14-year-old daughter from his first
marriage cling to the hope that he will be exonerated.

But the past raises an ugly fact. Almost 20 years ago, Jamie
Evans, Natalie’s roommate, was killed in Central Park. Her
assailant was never found and the case remains open. While
attending a party, Natalie is positive she sees the man who
murdered Jamie. He spots her too, and she knows he recognizes her.
Terrified, she flees for her life. Because Natalie took off to the
Cape to hide and didn’t tell anyone about this encounter,
nobody knows she saw him and made the connection to Jamie. Though
stressed and frightened, she heads back home. When she pulls into
the garage, she is yanked from her car, dragged into her house and
brutally slain. Nobody saw anything, even though it was a bright
morning.

A neighbor’s housekeeper, a raving fan of Natalie’s,
observes Natalie’s garage and car doors open on her way to
work in the morning. Then, when she is leaving for the night, she
sees the same scene and senses something is wrong. She decides to
investigate and finds Natalie dying on her kitchen floor. The woman
tries to comfort the young actress and calls 911. Natalie dies
before the ambulance has a chance to get there. “Her last
thought was the sentence Blanche DuBois utters at the end of [A
Streetcar Named Desire
]: ‘I have always depended on the
kindness of strangers.’” Natalie had just finished an
overwhelmingly successful run of the play on Broadway.

This is how JUST TAKE MY HEART opens, and from this point on the
suspense is visceral and the pace of the narrative swift. Aldrich
was granted bail, thus he is free to roam the city and spend time
with his daughter. At the same time, prosecutor Wallace is
diligently building a fortress of a case against him. She
understands that her boss, Edward “Ted” Scott Wesley,
needs Aldrich convicted. He has been tagged to become the Attorney
General of the United States, and putting this case behind him with
a score in the win column could help boost his chances. He is so
driven he will not hear anything from anyone, especially Emily,
that might point to another murderer.

But Emily has more problems than those at work. Her neighbor,
“Zach,” is a nosey parker and makes clear his interest
in Emily. When she needs a dog sitter he volunteers and talks her
into giving him a key to her house because she spends hundreds of
hours at work on this case. He gives her the creeps, but when she
comes home and finds him sitting on her porch watching television
after midnight, she tells him she can manage on her own. She has no
idea who he really is and how much danger she has attracted to
herself…just because of who she is and how she looks.

As the justice system makes its slow advances in the case,
Emily’s life will become fodder for every tabloid and news
program. This is painful to the young war widow who has secrets of
her own she would like to keep hidden. Once the trial begins, Emily
barely has time to do anything except work. Even when she starts
having doubts about the guilt of Aldrich, she knows she must
convict him or her boss will bring the house down on her head. And
every day another story about her appears in the media.

Of the two investigators who work with the DA’s office,
Billy Tryon is Ted Wesley’s cousin. And he is not above
“bending” the facts to fit the script that will lead to
a conviction in the Aldrich case. He and Emily have always crossed
swords, and she has never trusted him. On the other hand, his
partner Jake Rosen is a straight arrow who has always been the
buffer between the two of them. He develops conflicting feelings
when Emily really starts questioning the evidence and its
provenance.

Mary Higgins Clark rarely misses the mark when she writes a
book. Her sense of balance among tension, plot, suspense and
characters is limned in the 28 novels she has published. In her
Acknowledgements she writes: “We…live in a time of
medical miracles. Every day, lives are saved that even a generation
ago would have been lost. A number of times I have written novels
that touched on this subject.” Now readers again will wend
their way through the “hearts of darkness” into the
light where justice is served, and they have come away from this
book thinking how ironic life really is.

Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on April 26, 2011

Just Take My Heart
by Mary Higgins Clark

  • Publication Date: March 23, 2010
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket
  • ISBN-10: 141657087X
  • ISBN-13: 9781416570875