book review

“Where Are the Children Now?”

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Where Are the Children Now? by Mary Higgins Clark & Alafair Burke

  • Simon & Schuster, 2023
  • Hardcover, 275 pages
  • ISBN 978-1-9821-8941-9
Book cover: Where Are the Children Now? by Mary Higgins Clark & Alafair Burke

In 1975 Mary Higgins Clark published her first suspense novel, Where Are the Children? Over the ensuing years she published 55 more books, all of which were best sellers, according to her publisher Simon & Schuster, that earned her the title Queen of Suspense. During her career she partnered with her daughter, Carol Higgins Clark, to produce five holiday-themed crime novels. More recently she partnered with crime novelist Alafair Burke to produce a series called Under Suspicion that features a true-crime television producer who investigates mysterious cases. Mary Higgins Clark died on January 31, 2020, at age 92.

I don’t know exactly when I first read Where Are the Children? because I didn’t start keeping a record of my reading until July 1991, when I got my first home computer. My guess is that I read the book in the late 1970s. What I do remember about that first reading is that, at the time, it was the most terrifying novel I’d ever read.

Now, more than forty years after its original publication, arrives a sequel to Where Are the Children?, Where Are the Children Now? by Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke (published April 18, 2023). In this novel Melissa and Mike Eldredge, who were kidnapped in the original novel, are now in their 40s. 

Melissa, a lawyer, has recently won a highly publicized domestic abuse case. She has also just married a man after a whirlwind romance and become stepmother to his three-year-old daughter, Riley. Melissa remembers almost nothing about her childhood experience because she was drugged for most of it. She espouses “choose to be happy” as her life’s mantra.

In contrast, her older brother, Mike, remembers much of what happened to them. Mike thinks his sister is “still in complete denial about what they’d gone through as children and the ways it had affected them both.” Mike has “been around the sun enough times to believe that it was not for mere mortals to decide where the past lives. The past has its own plans. And more often than not, the past finds a way into the here and now.” But while Mike and Melissa are back in New England for their father’s funeral, they agree to disagree.

And then Riley vanishes.

Most of the reviews of Where Are the Children Now? advise that it’s not necessary to read or reread the original book before picking up this one. I agree that the new novel does summarize the original events enough to orient the reader. However, since this novel only exists because of the first one, I don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to reread it. Reading both books sequentially will also demonstrate how much suspense fiction has developed over the last nearly 50 years.

And reading both books together will allow you to recognize what Where Are the Children Now? truly is: an homage to the Queen of Suspense.

© 2023 by Mary Daniels Brown

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