Mary Higgins Clark’s Death Wears a Beauty Mask and Other Stories delivers the never-before-published title novella and revisits nine previously released short stories. As someone who has only read Clark’s full-length novels, I enjoyed experiencing these tales. However, readers who are familiar with her short stories, should keep in mind this combination of old and new to avoid confusion or disappointment.
Death Wears a Beauty Mask was by far my favorite. A young newlywed couple head to New York to meet the bride’s (Janice) sister (Alexandra). However, when Alexandra fails to meet them at the airport, what should have been a time of celebrating quickly turns into a nightmare. As I read this novella, I travelled back in time, reminded of Clark’s earliest novels, which to this day remain some of my favorites. Michael and Janice’s angst, fears, and pain quickly became my own as I joined the couple in attempting to piece the hours prior to Alexandra’s failure to meet them. Brimming with the classic Clark suspense and suspects galore, I didn’t want to see this tale come to an end.
Stowaway was my least favorite. A determined and dangerous Police Commissioner hunts for an escaped man while Carol, a stewardess on a flight out of the country, risks everything to hide the young stowaway. While I understand these are short stories, too much lacked from this one. I couldn’t connect with the characters or understand their motives. Carol herself hides the runaway but for all she knows, the young man could very easily be guilty of what he’s accused of. Even by the end, I still didn’t know why she believed him innocent, making her actions stupid at best — a long shot from the selfless Carol readers are supposed to see.
When the Bough Breaks had a melancholic feel to it as readers watch Marian cope with the death of her son and her struggles with the boy she holds responsible. Clark did a fabulous job at bringing the sense of loss to life while still offering a budding sense of hope by the end as Marian takes her first steps toward healing.
Voices in the Coalbin is the creepiest of the collection. A young woman is haunted by nightmares and tales of the past. With almost a touch of horror to it, this story carries a heart-pounding sense of doom from beginning to end. The reader knows a collision is inevitable but finds him/herself unable to look away.
The Cape Cod Masquerade — Though I’d never read this story before, I do know Clark’s beloved characters Willy and Alvirah Meehan from her other books. I enjoyed reuniting with them as they joined forces to help Cynthia clear her name after she’s spent years in prison for her stepfather’s murder.
Definitely, A Crime of Passion — Another one of Clark’s well-known sleuthing teams, Henry Parker Britland IV and his wife Sunday, make an appearance in this short story to help their friend and former Secretary of State, Tom, when he is accused of murdering his second wife.
The Man Next Door offers the chilling tale of a man with a secret place to “host visitors,” and his latest guest is his pretty next-door neighbor.
Haven’t We Met Before? Assistant District Attorney Jack questions William about his attempted murder of Emily, the young woman William blames for his death in a previous life.
The Funniest Thing Has Been Happening Lately — For years, Fred has patiently waited and plotted, but the time has finally arrived to exact his revenge on the people he holds responsible for the death of his daughter.
I have combined my thoughts of these last two short stories because, as a big fan of Clark’s, I’ve seen and own many of her stories-turned-to-movies. These are two of those. The latter (known as Try to Remember) is my favorite Clark movie, making it extra fun to read. I loved experiencing the stories that inspired the films and seeing in what areas they held true to the original and in what instances they made changes.
The Tell-Tale Purr — Not wanting to wait to claim his inheritance, Fred plots to kill his aging grandmother. A plan that leads to an unforeseeable turn of events. Though on the lower end of the enjoyment scale in comparison with some of the others, The Tell-Tale Purr almost had a comical tone by the end as Fred’s guilty conscious got the better of him.
I recommend Death Wears a Beauty Mask and Other Stories to Clark’s fans who wish to experience the new title novella or to anyone who has yet to read any of her short stories.
Review copy provided by the publisher. Thanks!
**Originally posted on Life is Story.