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Thursday, December 8, 2005

The Casual Critic — Mary Higgins Clark’s Silent Night

Mary Higgins Clark’s Silent Night has become a Christmas decoration in our house — it’s bright red cover with white lettering adds a little more ambience to the foyer. After all these years, I decided it was time to find out whether or not it was worth more than just a decoration. It was also a good excuse to read one of best-selling authors that the literary world scoffs at, and try to learn exactly why these little gold mines are seen as less than worthwile.

Catherine Dornan has brought her two young sons to New York to be with their father during the Christmas season after his surgery to remove his cancerous cells. A trip to Rockefeller Center for a break from the stress leads to her wallet — which holds a St. Christopher medal the boys have been assured will save their father — being stolen. The youngest boy follows the thief on his own, and eventually is caught in a race to the Canadian border as the hostage of the sympathetic thief’s ex-con brother who is on the run from the law.

While all of the expected problems are present in this novel, I can’t find any reason to completely trash Higgins based on Silent Night. The story has a nice pace to it, and if you temporarily suspend your desire for realism, there’s nothing that will cause you to roll your eyes enough to stop reading.

That said, the English major, serious writer wannabee in me can’t help but point out the flaws. Though most of the dialogue is easily passable, it dips into the hokey more than once. The combination of inner thought and occassional use of Christmas song lyrics makes the stomach almost start to churn. Character development is barely noticeable, and the ending is pretty clear about 10 pages in.

The inside cover suggests Silent Night is Clark’s Christmas gift for “readers of all seasons.” I think they were going for readers of all faiths, but you get the idea. And if that’s enough for you, read it for fun while looking for something better.

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