I have been a fan of Mary Higgins Clark for many years now, and a new book release is always cause for celebration. In Shadow of Your Smile, her newest one, Mary Higgins Clark manages yet again to flawlessly weave a story that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last page.
Monica Farell’s father spent his life searching for his biological parents, but to no avail; he passed away without ever finding them. Thirty-one year-old Monica isn’t particularly concerned with her biological heritage; after all, her own family is everything she could have asked for. On top of that, the demands of her job as a beloved and successful pediatrician don’t leave much time for anything else.
But her biological heritage catches up with her. Her biological grandmother, Catherine, told only a handful of people about her pregnancy, which occurred right before she entered a convent to become a nun. Since that fateful day, Catherine and most of the secret holders have passed on. The only secret holder left is Olivia, Catherine’s cousin and adoptive sister. Olivia has in her possession letters proving the latter is Monica’s grandmother. She has kept this knowledge safe throughout her life but now, the 82 year-old is on her deathbed. Faced with at best two to three weeks, she has to decide: will she share what she knows with Monica, or take it with her to the grave?
The situation is delicate for many reasons. Telling Monica who she really is entails Olivia betraying Catherine’s wishes by revealing the story behind Monica’s ancestry. As a nun, Catherine has served the cause of children as a nun during most of her life and is being considered for beatification by the Catholic Church when a four-year-old boy diagnosed with terminal brain cancer is miraculously cured after his desperate mother organized a prayer crusade to Catherine. Curiously enough, this little boy’s pediatrician is none other than Monica Farell. While there have been rumours of this child before, Catherine’s good name had, up to then, kept the gossips at bay.
There is also the fact that Monica Farell would stand to inherit all of her grandfather’s holdings — or whatever is left of them. After his adventure with Catherine, Alex Gannon became a internationally renown doctor, a scientist at the cutting edge of his field and the inventor of numerous hip & knee prosthetic replacements. Alex Gannon knew about the child Catherine carried and gave away, but was never able to find out the identity of said child. However, in the hopes that, one day, his fortune would return to his rightful heir, a stipulation in his will and testament clearly states that were his biological child ever to be found, the Gannon fortune will go to it or it’s descendants.
But while Alex Gannon and his direct biological descents are hardworking, honest people, the inheritors of his estate certainly are not. Alex Gannon’s nephews have been squandering their uncle’s fortune, and there is almost nothing left of it. Greg and Peter Gannon hid their inclination towards extravagance with philanthropy, but their carefully constructed public image is falling apart. Thankfully, no one knows about Gannon’s biological child and the one who did know had no intention of sharing the information — until Olivia found out she was dying.
Unfortunately, Olivia confides in the wrong person. Since there is no money left, and since their public image would be ruined were the truth to come out, neither nephew wants anyone to come poking around in their finances — something that would certainly happen were Monica to be identified as Alex Gannon’s descendant.
How do you solve a problem like Monica? You get rid of both the cause and the source, i.e. Monica and Olivia — permanently.
It’s not for nothing that Mary Higgins Clark is known as the Queen of Mystery. The author of twenty-eight previous suspense novels, all of which have been best-sellers, she once again delivers a flawless book that bit by bit builds tension, bringing together a collection of people who would have otherwise never met. And the years have been kind to her writing, as its quality been steadily increasing. Not only has the level of intricacy of her stories increases, but the number of themes covered in her stories has also been increasing. In Shadow of Your Smile, Monica struggles with the seeming conflicting concepts of religion and science, in particular medical science, as well as the definition of what one’s identity is and entails.
Another great piece of literature, a great travel companion that is bound to make summertime traveling a lot easier, since you won’t notice the time passing while you read it.
Just make sure you don’t miss your flight.
First published here on Blogcritics.
First publishing on Sahar’s Blog on 8 June 2013.