Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Reopening the Sweetheart Murder Case

It's a minor accident that brings prosecutor Kerry McGrath to the plastic surgeon's office with her beloved daughter, Robin. But even as the doctor assures Kerry that her daughter's scars will heal, she spies a familiar-looking beautiful woman in the waiting room and is seized by an overpowering sense of deja vu. When, on a return visit, she sees the same haunting face-- on another woman-- she has an intense flash of recognition: it's the face of Suzanne Reardon, the "Sweetheart Murder" victim, killed more than ten years ago! The case resulted in a guilty verdict and a life sentence for Suzanne's husband, Skip. But for what possible reason would Dr. Smith be giving his patients the face of a dead woman?

As Kerry immerses herself in a fresh investigation, she is catapulted into the strange and ominous territory of those so obsessed with beauty they'll kill for it. Each new piece of evidence she unearths reveals a disturbing cache of questions. Not only does everyone involved want to keep the case closed, it's clear somebody will stop at nothing to keep it sealed forever. As she delves deeper she finds she's wrestling with a force so sinister that her own life-- and her daughter's-- is threatened with increasing peril...

Interweaving fascinating characters with deeply daring, staggeringly unpredictable plot twists; Mary Higgins Clark reminds us that she is, indeed, America's Queen of Suspense.

Title: Let Me Call You Sweetheart
Author: Mary Higgins Clark
Start & Finished: 7/29/10- 7/30/10
Published: May 1, 1995
Publisher: Pocket Books (Simon & Schuster)
Pages: 308
Genre: Mystery/ Cold Case- Crime (Lawyers)

Plastic surgeons, art thief’s, a wealthy crook, and an innocent man in prison are all connected to the ten year old murder of Suzanne Reardon in Mary Higgins Clark 1995 New York Times bestselling book Let Me Call You Sweetheart. Kerry McGrath, attorney prosecutor is the main character here and when she stumbles across the fact that the man convicted of the killing may be wrongfully accused, she stops at nothing-- even the fact that it could cost her judgeship or even her daughter‘s life-- to find out the truth.

A good number of this author’s titles are based on popular songs including this one which has been recorded by several artists since including Bing Crosby. However, even though the song does make its way into the story, Ms. Clark says that her editor Michael Korda gave her the idea for this story when she told him she wanted to write about plastic surgery. In an interview she claimed that: "Michael said, 'What if a plastic surgeon gave the same face to a bunch of different women? Why would he do that?' Then I knew we had it. That became the book." Mary Higgins Clark has had twenty made for TV movie’s adaptations from her books including this one in 1997 starring Meredith Baxter.

Let Me Call You Sweetheart is written from a multitude of different points of view- even the murderer- though you have to guess which one he is (no, I wasn’t able to guess who the murderer was until the last minute). Surprisingly I didn’t find this too confusing since the author had fleshed out almost all of the characters (even minor ones) very well. Just about every character in this book is some kind of lawyer, married to a lawyer, or in the case of little Robin, related to one. I don’t tend to read books where lawyers are the main character very often (which is why I wasn’t that fond of the book at first) but I was pleased to note that not much lawyer jargon makes it into the book. Matter of fact, I got the feeling that the reason so many of the characters were lawyers in the first place was to make their investigation more plausible. The characters are also all equally obsessed with something or someone. For some, it’s Suzanne Reardon, others the pursuit of justice or staying out of prison, and still others like Jason Arnett and Suzanne herself, its riches and lovely things.

Even though the story is told through multiple people, Kerry McGrath is definitely the main character. I felt like Kerry’s character could have used some more exploring though. I wasn’t even too sure if Kerry was bitter about her divorce or not. She doesn’t seem to like her ex-husband- who I really, really didn’t like- very much but I still got the feeling she regretted his decision to leave her. She just had this loneliness to her though it’s never specifically stated so I was glad of Geoff Dorso’s addition to the story. I was really fond of him, especially since Robin said he reminded her of Jimmy Stewart. At times I got the feeling that this could have been the start of a series (which to my knowledge, this author does not write) because it felt like everyone but the main character was fleshed-out.

This book does start off slow but I was very eager to learn “whodunit” about halfway through and once I thought I had it, I thought Ms. Higgins Clark was very clever! I waffled back and forth on who could be the murderer and who was just too conveniently set up to look like the murderer that I almost didn’t quite catch on to the real murderer until it was too forgone to come to any other conclusion. The real murderer shocked me stupid because it seemed to come out of left field (I was really upset with who it was, though I‘ve heard that this is a fairly common plot device for some mystery writers). There were no clues as to who it was but a steadily revolving door of suspects of who it could be. I found some reasonable doubt for every one of them too, except of course the real killer because nothing was ever even hinted at to make me suspect that person. I even believed at first that the husband could have been the murderer after all but I very quickly dismissed that thought when I realized the whole purpose of the book was to get him out of jail, plus it didn’t seem very likely when it was his turn to narrate.

Let Me Call You Sweetheart is only the third Mary Higgins Clark book I’ve ever read (Nighttime is My Time and On the Street Where You Live before this one) but it’s the second time I’ve seen her use a cold case as the jumping off of her mystery, there the similarities end. While I was right about the doctor, the thief and the crook’s motives for and against them being the murderers, I was disappointed that the author felt like she had to pull the trick she did with the ending after she had set everything up so neatly throughout the course of the book.

Favorite Quotes
Kerry’s throat tightened. I know you, she thought. But from where? She swallowed, her mouth suddenly dry. That face-- I’ve seen her before.

“I just inherited some money from my aunt. Can you make me pretty?”
He had done more than that-- he had transformed her. He had made her beautiful. Now Barbera was working in Manhattan at a large, prestigious P.R. firm. She had always had brains, but combining those brains with that special kind of beauty had truly changed her life.

She scanned the article, then dropped the newspaper back into her briefcase. Shaking her head, she remembered how appalled she had been when, shortly after Robin was born, Bob had told her he had accepted a job with Bartlett and Associates.
“All their clients have one foot in jail,” she had protested. “And the other foot should be there.”
“And they pay their bills on time,” Bob had replied. “Kerry, you stay in the prosecutor’s office if you want. I have other plans.”
A year later he had announced that those plans included marrying Alice Bartlett.

Over coffee they finally discussed the Reardon case. Kerry began by saying frankly, “I sat in on the sentencing ten years ago, and the look on his face and what he said were imprinted on my memory. I’ve heard a lot of guilty people swear they were innocent-- after all, what have they got to lose?-- but there was something about his statement that got to me.”
“Because he was telling the truth.”
Kerry looked directly at him. “I warn you, Geoff, I intend to play devil’s advocate, and while reading that transcript raises a lot of questions for me, it certainly doesn’t convince me that Reardon is an innocent man. Neither did yesterday’s visit. Either he’s lying or Dr. Smith is lying. Skip Reardon has a very good reason to lie. Smith doesn’t.

The accusations she had thrown at him made him shudder with revulsion. It was the same revulsion he felt when he looked at a maimed or scarred or ugly face. He could feel his very being tremble with the need to change it, to redeem it, to make things right. To find for it the beauty that his skilled hands could wrest from bone and muscle and flesh.

First Paragraph: As often as humanly possible he tried to put Suzanne out of his mind. Sometimes he achieved peace for a few hours or even managed to sleep through the night. It was the only way he could function, go about the daily business of living.

Find Mary Higgins Clark Online
Official Site
Simon & Schuster Webpage (videos included)

Audio Excerpt
Author Wikipedia
My Cover Contemplation Post

Writers Write
Q&A With the Author

Source: My personal copy, paperback

Related Reviews
On the Street Where You Live (2001)

Picture Explanations
Roses: Scattered over the deceased’s body
Courtroom Scales: A majority of the characters are lawyers, senators, and would-be judges.
Prison: Suzanne’s husband was convicted of killing her but he’s innocent!
Art Thief: Jason Arnett is an art theif who hangs around the high society then robs them blind


  1. Wow. I read these when I was like 11 (I was a weird kid), and now I do not read the genre any more, but I find myself missing her

  2. I haven't read any Mary Higgins Clark in a while, but boy, does that sound like a book I would like!

  3. I love Mary Higgins Clark! It has been awhile but I'm glad as I would like to go back and reread some of her older books. Great review!

  4. Hi Lady Tink!
    I really enjoyed reading your blog as a follower for the last few months, and thought you really deserved this Summer blogger award - hope you like it! I see that you don't have it, so it'll be something new.

    Blog Awards

  5. Blodeudd: Not too weird. That's when I was reading Anne Rice and Stephen King!

    Bermudaonion: She's a pretty good author but not one of my favorites.

    Samantha.1020: I might read one of her Christmas themed books this year.

    Deepli: Thank you so much!



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