Moonlight Becomes You, p.1Mary Higgins Clark
Critical Acclaim for the Incomparable
Queen of Suspense
and #1 New York Times
MARY HIGGINS CLARK
MOONLIGHT BECOMES YOU
“Ms. Clark has a sneaky way of injecting undertones of menace into a genteel place like Newport. . . . Her savvy formula for putting capable women in danger never fails.”
—Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review
“Mary Higgins Clark does it again. Her MOONLIGHT BECOMES YOU will not disappoint her millions of fans. She’s one of the best storytellers ever, and her heroine once again faces peril with one mysterious villain lurking. Yes, you won’t put it down.”
“The arresting opening tableau—a young woman buried alive in a satin-lined coffin—is a perfect image for the sleekly cushioned menace Clark dispenses in her 13th novel.”
“Clark has written a clever story with interesting characters.”
—Mary Frances Wilkens, Booklist
“Mary Higgins Clark knows how to build suspense. From the chilling opening chapter, with its gruesome portent of things to come, the reader is hooked. . . . Each [compelling character] emerges as a real person through the author’s spare but descriptive and imperative prose. Fans of the macabre will have a field day.”
—Anne Price, The Advocate (Baton Rouge)
“Clark has the book plotted out well and should keep you guessing up until the last chapter.”
—Faye M. Dasen, The Pilot (Southern Pines, NC)
“A page-turner until the very end.”
—Simon Gonzalez, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“A good, satisfying read that leaves us eagerly awaiting Clark’s next.”
—Sandra Brooks-Dillard, Denver Post
“The bottom line . . . is that [Mary Higgins Clark] creates characters you feel you know, and she can put them in a plot you want to follow.”
—Jan Maxwell Avent, The Knoxville News-Sentinel
“Like all of Mary Higgins Clark’s previous books of satiny, soft-pedaled suspense, [MOONLIGHT BECOMES YOU has] become a smash hit.”
“It’s a good one. . . . Clark does a good job of keeping readers guessing. . . . MOONLIGHT BECOMES YOU is one of her more suspenseful, believable tales.”
—Carol Deegan, Associated Press
“There’s some fun in the sprightly Newport oldsters, and the many scenes and characters are shifted around smoothly and with a practiced hand.”
“MOONLIGHT BECOMES YOU has a beautiful love story mixed in with murders most foul and greed beyond comparison. . . . If you love to be frightened and learn something in the process, I highly recommend MOONLIGHT BECOMES YOU.”
—Patricia Jones, Tulsa World (OK)
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Tuesday, October 8th
For Lisl Cade and Eugene H. Winick —my publicist and my literary agent— and both my very dear friends.
How can I thank thee? . . . Let me count the ways.
No words are sufficient to express my gratitude to my longtime editor, Michael Korda, and his associate, senior editor Chuck Adams. A story, like a child, thrives best when it is encouraged, helped, and guided in a wise and caring atmosphere. Again and always . . . sine qua non . . . I love you guys.
Gypsy da Silva, who has been copy supervisor for many of my manuscripts, remains a candidate for sainthood with her eagle eye and cheerful patience. Bless you, Gypsy.
Kudos to my pal, author Judith Kelman, who has repeatedly gone on the Internet, the mystery of which I have not fathomed, to procure information I needed immediately.
A thousand thanks to Catherine L. Forment, Vice President of Merrill Lynch, for willingly and knowledgeably answering my many questions about stock investment and confirmation procedures.
A grateful tip of the hat to R. Patrick Thompson, President of the New York Mercantile Exchange, who interrupted a meeting to answer my inquiries about temporary restraining orders.
When I decided that it would be interesting if funeral customs became part of this story, I read fascinating books on the subject. In particular, they were Consolatory Rhetoric by Donovan J. Octs, Down to Earth by Marian Barnes, and Celebrations of Death by Metcalf Huntington.
The Newport Police Department has responded to all my phone calls with great courtesy. I’m grateful to everyone who has been so kind and hope that the police procedure contained in these pages passes inspection.
And finally, loving thanks to my daughter Carol Higgins Clark for her infallible ability to pick up my unconscious idiosyncrasies. Do you know how often you used the word decent? . . . No thirty-two-year-old would say it like that . . . You used that same name for a different characte
And now I can happily quote the words written on a monastery wall in the Middle Ages: “The book is finished. Let the writer play.”
Tuesday, October 8th
Maggie tried to open her eyes, but the effort was too great. Her head hurt so much. Where was she? What had happened? She raised her hand, but it was stopped inches above her body, unable to move any farther.
Instinctively she pushed at the overhead barrier, but it did not move. What was it? It felt soft, like satin, and it was cold.
She slid her fingers to the side and down; the surface changed. Now it felt ruffled. A quilt? Was she in some kind of bed?
She pushed out her other hand to the side and recoiled as that palm immediately encountered the same chill ruffles. They were on both sides of this narrow enclosure.
What was tugging at her ring when she moved her left hand? She ran her thumb over her ring finger, felt it touch string or cord. But why?
Then memory came rushing back.
Her eyes opened and stared in terror into absolute darkness.
Frantically her mind raced as she tried to piece together what had happened. She had heard him in time to whirl around just as something crashed down on her head.
She remembered him bending over her, whispering, “Maggie, think of the bell ringers.” After that, she remembered nothing.
Still disoriented and terrified, she struggled to understand. Then suddenly it came flooding back. The bell ringers! Victorians had been so afraid of being buried alive that it became a tradition to tie a string to their fingers before interment. A string threaded through a hole in the casket, stretching to the surface of the burial plot. A string with a bell attached to it.
For seven days a guard would patrol the grave and listen for the sound of the bell ringing, the signal that the interred wasn’t dead after all . . .
But Maggie knew that no guard was listening for her. She was truly alone. She tried to scream, but no sound came. Frantically she tugged at the string, straining, listening, hoping to hear above her a faint, pealing sound. But there was only silence. Darkness and silence.
She had to keep calm. She had to focus. How had she gotten here? She couldn’t let panic overwhelm her. But how? . . . How? . . .
Then she remembered. The funeral museum. She’d gone back there alone. Then she’d taken up the search, the search that Nuala had begun. Then he’d come, and . . .
Oh, God! She was buried alive! She pounded her fists on the lid of the casket, but even inside, the thick satin muffled the sound. Finally she screamed. Screamed until she was hoarse, until she couldn’t scream anymore. And still she was alone.
The bell. She yanked on the string . . . again . . . and again. Surely it was sending out sounds. She couldn’t hear them, but someone would. They must!
Overhead a mound of fresh, raw earth shimmered in the light of the full moon. The only movement came from the bronze bell attached to a pipe emerging from the mound: The bell moved back and forth in an arrhythmic dance of death. Round about it, all was silent. Its clapper had been removed.
Friday, September 20th
I HATE COCKTAIL PARTIES, MAGGIE THOUGHT WRYLY, wondering why she always felt like an alien when she attended one. Actually I’m being too harsh, she thought. The truth is I hate cocktail parties where the only person I know is my supposed date, and he abandons me the minute we come in the door.
She looked around the large room, then sighed. When Liam Moore Payne had invited her to this reunion of the Moore clan, she should have guessed he would be more interested in visiting with his cousins-by-the-dozens than worrying about her. Liam, an occasional but normally thoughtful date when he was in town from Boston, was tonight displaying a boundless faith in her ability to fend for herself. Well, she reasoned, it was a large gathering; surely she could find someone to talk to.
It was what Liam had told her about the Moores that had been the factor that made her decide to accompany him to this affair, she remembered, as she sipped from her glass of white wine and maneuvered her way through the crowded Grill Room of the Four Seasons restaurant on Manhattan’s East Fifty-second Street. The family’s founding father—or at least the founder of the family’s original wealth—had been the late Squire Desmond Moore, at one time a fixture of Newport society. The occasion of tonight’s party/reunion was to celebrate the great man’s one hundred fifteenth birthday. For convenience’s sake, it had been decided to have the gathering in New York rather than Newport.
Going into amusing detail about many members of the clan, Liam had explained that over one hundred descendants, direct and collateral, as well as some favored ex-in-laws, would be present. He had regaled her with anecdotes about the fifteen-year-old immigrant from Dingle who had considered himself to be not one of the huddled masses yearning to be free but, rather, one of the impoverished masses yearning to be rich. Legend claimed that as his ship passed the Statue of Liberty, Squire had announced to his fellow steerage-class passengers, “In no time a-tall I’ll be wealthy enough to buy the old girl, should the government ever decide to sell her, of course.” Liam had delivered his forebear’s declaration in a wonderfully broad Irish brogue.
The Moores certainly did come in all sizes and shapes, Maggie reflected as she looked about the room. She watched two octogenarians in animated conversation, and narrowed her eyes, mentally framing them through the lens of the camera she now wished she had brought. The snow white hair of the man, the coquettish smile on the woman’s face, the pleasure they were obviously taking in each other’s company—it would have made a wonderful picture.
“The Four Seasons will never be the same after the Moores are finished with it,” Liam said as he appeared suddenly beside her. “Having a good time?” he asked, but then without waiting for an answer, introduced her to yet another cousin, Earl Bateman, who, Maggie was amused to note, studied her with obvious and unhurried interest.
She judged the newcomer to be, like Liam, in his late thirties. He was half a head shorter than his cousin, which made him just under six feet. She decided there was something of a scholarly bent reflected in his lean face and thoughtful expression, although his pale blue eyes had a vaguely disconcerting cast to them. Sandy haired with a sallow complexion, he did not have Liam’s rugged good looks. Liam’s eyes were more green than blue, his dark hair attractively flecked with gray.
She waited while he continued to look her over. Then, after a long moment, with a raised eyebrow, she asked, “Will I pass inspection?”
He looked embarrassed. “I’m sorry. I’m not good at remembering names and I was trying to place you. You are one of the clan, aren’t you?”
“No. I have Irish roots going back three or four generations, but I’m no relation to this clan, I’m afraid. It doesn’t look as though you need any more cousins anyhow.”
“You couldn’t be more right about that. Too bad, though, most of them aren’t nearly so attractive as you. Your wonderful blue eyes, ivory skin and small bones make you a Celt. The near-black hair places you among the ‘Black Irish’ segment of the family, those members who owe some of their genetic makeup to the brief but significant visit from survivors of the defeat of the Spanish Armada.”
“Liam! Earl! Oh, for the love of God, I guess I’m glad I came after all.”
Forgetting Maggie, both men turned to enthusiastically greet the florid-faced man who came up behind them.
Maggie shrugged. So much for that, she thought, mentally retreating into a corner. Then she remembered an article she had recently read that urged people who felt isolated in social situations to look for someone else who seemed to be even more desperate and start a conversation.
Chuckling to herself, she decided to give that tactic a try, then if she ended up still talking to herself she would slip away and go home. At that moment, the prospect of her pleasant apartment on Fifty-sixth Street near the East River was very attractive. She knew she should have stayed in tonight. She’d only been
She glanced around. There didn’t seem to be a single Squire Moore descendant or in-law who wasn’t fighting to be heard.
Countdown to exit, she decided. Then she heard a voice nearby—a melodic, familiar voice, one that spurred sudden, pleasant memories. She spun around. The voice belonged to a woman who was ascending the short staircase to the restaurant’s balcony area and had stopped to call to someone below her. Maggie stared, then gasped. Was she crazy? Could it possibly be Nuala? It had been so long ago, yet she sounded just like the woman who once had been her stepmother, from the time she was five until she was ten. After the divorce, her father had forbidden Maggie to even mention Nuala’s name.
Maggie noticed Liam passing on his way to hail another relative and grabbed his arm. “Liam, that woman on the stairs. Do you know her?”
He squinted. “Oh, that’s Nuala. She was married to my uncle. I mean I guess she’s my aunt, but she was his second wife, so I never thought of her that way. She’s a bit of a character but a lot of fun. Why?”
Maggie did not wait to answer but began to thread her way through the clusters of Moores. By the time she reached the stairs, the woman she sought was chatting with a group of people on the balcony level. Maggie started up the stairs but near the top paused to study her.
When Nuala had left, so abruptly, Maggie had prayed that she would write. She never did, though, and Maggie had found her silence especially painful. She had come to feel so close to her during the five years the marriage had lasted. Her own mother had died in an automobile accident when she was an infant. It was only after her father’s death that Maggie learned from a family friend that her father had destroyed all the letters and returned the gifts that Nuala had sent to her.
Maggie stared now at the tiny figure with lively blue eyes and soft honey-blond hair. She could see the fine skein of wrinkles that detracted not a bit from her lovely complexion. And as she stared, the memories flooded her heart. Childhood memories, perhaps her happiest.
Nuala, who always took her part in arguments, protesting to Maggie’s father, “Owen, for the love of heaven, she’s just a child. Stop correcting her every minute.” Nuala, who was always saying, “Owen, all the kids her age wear jeans and tee shirts. . . . Owen, so what if she used up three rolls of film? She loves to take pictures, and she’s good. . . . Owen, she’s not just playing in mud. Can’t you see she’s trying to make something out of the clay. For heaven’s sake, recognize your daughter’s creativity even if you don’t like my paintings.”
Moonlight Becomes You by Mary Higgins Clark / Mystery & Detective / History & Fiction / Thrillers & Crime have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes