Tennaners's Reviews > The Lost Years

The Lost Years by Mary Higgins Clark
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May 21, 2012

it was ok
Read in May, 2012

Mary Higgins Clark is reliable, if nothing else, for serving up bland murder mysteries for the Matlock set. I didn't go into this thinking "hard-hitting think piece" so much as "of the Golden Girls, I really wish Dorothy would've been the last one. Love me some Maude." Her books aren't terrible, however, and can help you pass time you'd otherwise spend chewing your nails or pondering self-tanner (don't.) Also, she has a free pass for "All Around the Town," and always will, as it was the first book my mother let me read after her, meaning not a kid's book she bought expressly for me, but a grown-ups book she was letting me read. My first brush with Dissociative Personality Disorder, child-kidnapping AND murder, and all before I hit puberty. Happy birthday to me, indeed!

But this is not "All Around the Town," and there's not so much as a child-groping in sight to liven this one up. Onward, people, to an East Coast collection of towns and a dead dude in a study, discovered by his adult daughter.

I pause here to call attention to this one chick who wanders around the periphery of this book that, frankly, steals the show; I can't even tell you what the protagonist/s name is without checking the back of the book, mind, but when we come down to it, this isn't the story of a dead dude at all; this is the story of Alviraaaaah~, as I discovered along the way, and so will any who read this book. She's a scene-stealin' gal after Linda Tripp's withered little heart, she is!

But she's not the protagonist according to the script; that honor belongs to...

one sec checking book, brb

It's Mariah, which is only an "ah" sound away from being my name, and still I couldn't remember it. What I do remember of "Ah" is that girl can't go three seconds without recounting a memory of her dead dad. Goes to her apartment? That's Dad's chair she sits in. Looks at her eyes in the mirror? Daddy's eyes. And his height! (A collective sigh of relief is breathed as she fails to further describe whether or not she inherited dear ol' Dad's vitiligo.) She also has occasion to look at her hair, and well, that beckons a memory of her dad's comparisons between her raven locks and the song The Highwayman, which is about some rogue having the hots for an innkeeper's daughter, ew. Looks at a picture? It's not of her dad, but reminds her of the awesome pictures he had of him and his girlfriend off gallivanting around Venice. Venice, as it turns out, is where he took his wife, Ah's dear mother, on their honeymoon. I've met girls who won't brook a guy taking them to the same restaurant that they used to frequent with an ex, and that's just dating. This is a honeymoon-destination we're talking here, mister. If only there were other cities in other countries! At the very least, this is a tacky-as-hell vacation for the girlfriend, and we should feel bad for her.

Wait.

How do these pictures come into play? Oh, Ah's mom, who is still very much alive, found them. But wait! Mom has the Alzheimers, so that's okay, right? The "Notebook" approach isn't for everyone. But these aren't amnesia-Alzheimers we're dealing with. While she has her moments, Ah's Mom is also very much aware that her husband is actively replacing the warm spot she used to leave in the bed (ew EW) before she's even done making it.

At this point in the book (second chapter) I'm glad the dude got shot, and as far as I'm concerned, this became about finding a thank-you note Jesus jotted down, period, the end. It's the only one of its kind, and not even to the Wise Men or his disciples or even his mom; apparently, being the Savior of the World doesn't come with any sense of etiquette. So off we go, to poke around figuring out which of Dead Dad's friends conspired to steal Christ's Post-It, and our Sherpa is some girl who can't hook a bra in this story without reminiscing about how her father either bought her the bra or used to snap them or something. Like I said, completely forgettable.

But I sure as hell remember ol' Alviraaaaah~. Which is clearly how you're supposed to pronounce that name, bee tee dubs. This broad is definitely one of those ladies born in the 60s (but still refers to herself as a "Baby Boomer," neglecting to note that the baby boom happened when all the US troops returned from WWII. In the 40s. Mmmhmm.) Another word I bet she proudly uses in self-descriptives? Wacky. I don't know how I know this, or why, but I'm betting dollars that she owns at least 2 pairs of multi-colored reading glasses from the drugstore AND whimsical socks, and thinks this niche consumerism makes her unique. "All my friends tell me I'm so wacky and spontaneous!" she remarks to her windchimes. I bet she has dozens.

Another thing I'm certain of is her inspiration- this is Jessica Fletcher writ annoying. She barely squeezes out a tear for the dead, a lifelong friend, before she's nagging her hubs (Willy, whose name I remember in connection with it being one of the saddest nicknames for peen EVER) to circle blocks while she stalks people, lies to doormen when the stalkees are, understandably, avoiding this pile of Metamucil and crazy, and oh yes, has a diamond-and-gold sunburst brooch with a microphone in it that she wears constantly.

lolwut

I get that bridge clubs and knitting aren't for everyone, but Jesus-Please-us (only once, as He wasn't one for the manners) lady, THIS IS WHY THERE ARE COPS AND LAWYERS. You know, people with training and knowledge about the law, who could tell you that without a warrant, you really can't use any secret recordings you make of people who are under the impression of privacy.

lolpatriotact

Alviraaaaah wears this gaudy-as-all-get-out Liberace constellation jewelry all the time, and whenever she wants to "be sure not to mishear something" (reasonable) she claws at the brooch like she's having a stroke, and no one notices (nutbag.) Well, no one who would somehow make this microphone brooch (I'm sorry, did Harry Ritchies get merged with Sharper Image somewhere along the way?) less effective, because Ah asks her to wear it to a dinner to catch any asides her father's killer might make about, you know, killing him. Which I must say sounds foolproof from this end!

Places to Admit to Committing Murder:
1. Space, where no one can hear you scream, let alone confess;
2. Your shower, in-between belting out off-key renditions of "You Give Love a Bad Name";
3. In the house where you straight murdered your friend, at a memorial dinner for the departed, given by his own kid.

Hmmmmmmm decisions decisions

But sure enough, Alviraaaaah happens to notice someone acting very suspicious- taking a phone call on their cell, if you can imagine, HOW MYSTERIOUS- and bustles up right next to him, close enough to record the tinny voice on his phone as a message is left. And she does so without him even noticing her lurch forward, clutch her shoulder, and give his jacket some of that onion-breath or old lady perfume smell. And this factors in with the rest of the story, and is even a key to solving who capped Dad, framed Mom, and made off with the Heavenly Hallmark.

Wait. I think we discovered the actual mystery in this book. How Alviraaaaah~ wasn't stabbed to death with a tire iron (well, stabbed/bludgeoned) as she meddled along in actual criminal cases, armed only with roots she can't stop bitching about and her high tech tchotchkes. The theologic thank-you is a McGuffin!

(Well played, Ms. Higgins Clark. Well played.)

For those not into meta-mysteries: Check out All Around the Town. It's a much stronger book, and reliably paced with action and believable interpersonal relationships. That is to say, it's unlike this one, wherein men come staggering in from offstage, pouncing on Ah seconds after her dead father's body starts to cool, like emo-zombies calling out for "looooooooove." You'd think that their intent would be to offer sympathies in this time of loss, and mutual loss at that- all the men in this book are bros with Dead Dude, like BFFS4EVA!!! But, sadly, their shoulder pats and single tears are just a formality, the offer of a tissue for her tears before a dinner date and in one instance, a shiny new car!!! if she'll go steady with them.

I would think there's some Emily Post chart out there that labels out when it's appropriate to try to get her out of their dreams and her black mourning clothes; I've never seen one, but I bet it mandates the poor girl at least have a moment to scrape the dead's blood off the office furniture before she's expected to make out in the backseat of Dad's (ooh, too soon!) car, but these gentlemen vultures don't even have the decency to circle THAT long. The first offer for a date comes THE DAY AFTER THE GUY DIES, EW ew ew! Best of all, we're supposed to root for one of them, who ends up getting the girl, in a twist at which even M. Night Shyamalan would look, roll his eyes and say "Oh REALLY." However, Alviraaaaah~ approves, so must we.

She has some very incriminating recordings of us, as it turns out.
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05/10/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-11 of 11) (11 new)

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message 1: by Firedragonll (new)

Firedragonll Thank God, I ditched this.


Cate Thank you for giving me the first laugh of the day! :D


Tennaners Lynn wrote: "Thank you for giving me the first laugh of the day! :D"

I'm glad to hear it, though I did go back and reiterate that really, she's not a bad author, and her older books were really good reads (rimshot!) so please don't count her out entirely. Just... avoid this one. ;)


Tennaners Firedragonll wrote: "Thank God, I ditched this."

I have that thing where I have to finish every book I start. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes... I write snark on the internet. ;P


message 5: by Beth (new)

Beth Your first paragraph could have been written by ME! I read every MHC book that comes out simply because I recall the feeling of my mom telling me at age 12 or 13 that she loved this author and thought I would too. Unfortunately for me, my feeling that I would be disloyal to mom and MHC if I let one go means I have to read drivel now. For fifteen years I have been thinking her books are formulaic drivel, written by a woman whom I am sure is a super lovely lady IRL, but writes her young characters (always a beautiful, single woman in her late 20s or so) as rich, lonely, and someone who clearly shops in the old lady section of Macy's. I mean really, what 20s NYer wears "slacks and a cotton sweater" or "a silk blouse and wide bottomed pants"? Her obsession with indepth descriptions of every outfit change and sandwich made along with way too many cups of tea per book is doing me in.


message 6: by Ruth (new) - rated it 1 star

Ruth What an absolutely brilliant and hilarious review! I share your feelings on the book, but at least it led me to reading your review of it. Thanks for making me smile!


Lidia Warner Hahaha thank you so much for this :)) now I'm actually glad I read this book, because otherwise I wouldn't have understood this review.


Linda Belmont If I could write like this, I would have written it. Spot on in every way. I'm glad it wasn't just me. Thank you!


Constance Large I read this book in the last month and was my first Mary Higgins Clark book that I have read in quite a while. It was a page turner for me!!!!!!


message 10: by Ian (new) - rated it 1 star

Ian Wood Your review is hilarious! And right on the money - for at least as far as I read this horrible novel. Thanks for the laughs.


message 11: by Beth (new) - rated it 3 stars

Beth Best review EVA!!!!!!


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