In Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke’s Where Are the Children Now?, the children of Nancy Harmon face peril once again as adults. Here’s Doreen Sheridan’s review!
Forty years ago, Nancy Eldredge suffered some of the worst imaginable torments a mother could possibly endure. After being convicted for the murder of her two children, Peter and Lisa, she was released on a technicality. In an effort to make a fresh start for herself, she moved across the country, changing her name and appearance and eventually finding love again in Cape Cod.
Happily married once more, the last thing Nancy expected was for her new offspring, Mike and Melissa, to go missing while playing in their own yard. When the police and press found out about her past, she became the prime suspect in their disappearance, too. Her ultimately successful struggle to get her kids back forged a strong family bond, even if every member of her family continues to deal with the aftermath in their own way.
Mike, her eldest child, is a firm proponent of dealing with everything head-on. A college drop-out who went on to captain ships in the Caribbean, he’s both disciplined and laid back. His younger sister Melissa was spurred by what happened to pursue a career in criminal justice, even as she prefers to think as little about her trauma as possible, opting to “choose happiness” instead:
To Mike, that wasn’t happiness. Happiness, he believed, required honesty. Happiness could be messy, and even painful. If you never feel pain, how do you appreciate its absence? If you’re never afraid, how do you know comfort? But Melissa wanted to live in her perfectly controlled Melissa bubble, brushing off any unwanted emotions as “drama.” Was that why she was marrying a man she’d only known for ten months–to convince herself that she was still happy?
After the death of their dad, Melissa finally starts going to therapy. In group counseling, she meets handsome widower and single dad Charlie Miller. The two hit it off so well that they decide to marry less than a year after meeting. It helps that Charlie’s three year-old daughter Riley is a ray of sunshine, captivating practically everyone who meets her.
So when Riley goes missing one day, it’s all of the Eldredges’ worst traumas come roaring back to life. At first, it looks like Riley might have just wandered off while she was supposed to be napping. When it becomes more and more clear that someone took her, suspicion quickly falls on Melissa and her family.
As the cops probe harder at her and Charlie’s pasts, separately and together, Melissa gets some tough love from a friend who was also once a high-powered attorney:
When Melissa was finished, Katie did not mince words. “He needs a lawyer. Now. Two hours ago, in fact.”
“I am a lawyer,” Melissa said.
“Sorry, but a lawyer who’s objective. Not his wife.”
“You’re acting like you think Charlie did something wrong. And the police will think we’re guilty if we start calling defense lawyers. I think he should just call [Riley’s estranged] grandparents himself. They should know she’s missing. And then the police can dig into us as much as they need to. There’s nothing to find.”
“Are you listening to yourself? You know better than that. That’s how innocent people end up arrested.”
As Melissa tries to navigate her way out of this nightmare, she’ll uncover shocking truths about some of the people she loves the most. Will she be able to rescue her beloved stepdaughter from the clutches of a killer, despite her own breaking heart?
Wow, I did not expect this to be as twisty as it was! I wasn’t very familiar with Mary Higgins Clark’s oeuvre before reading this book—I hadn’t even read her seminal Where Are The Children? which not only chronicled Nancy’s original ordeal but also arguably founded the psychological suspense genre—but found this sequel to be incredibly satisfying as a stand-alone novel. It does have a ton of spoilers for the original book, so definitely read that first if you’re already planning to.
Even if you’re not, this is a terrific page-turner all on its own. Alafair Burke does such a great job with Ms Clarke’s material, updating it for the 21st century. I’ll admit that I did think it a bit odd that Nancy kept calling her fully grown daughter “beautiful”, in a way that suggested it was the accomplished Melissa’s most important attribute. That aside, the narrative was immersive and the twists and betrayals truly surprising, leaving me guessing until the last few pages. Overall, this is an elegantly crafted, highly entertaining thriller that absolutely deserves to be on the shelf with the rest of the Queen of Suspense’s best-selling novels.
Learn More Or Order A Copy