Weep No More, My Lady

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Leila Lange is dead, having fallen from the balcony of her Manhattan penthouse--or was she pushed? One week before Leila’s lover, millionaire Ted Winters, is to be tried for her murder, Leila’s younger sister Elizabeth receives an invitation to Cypress Point Spa, a celebrity resort near Carmel, California. Once there, she finds that Ted--along with his best friend, Craig Babcock, and defense attorney Henry Bartlett--has also been invited to stay the week. Joining them are the spa’s owners, Baron and Baroness Helmut von Schreiber, aspiring actress Cheryl Manning and her agent Syd Melnick, and a few other cardboard characters who seem to have been left over from unaired miniseries.

Mary Higgins Clark has built a reputation for solid suspense plotting, but here she has decided to try her hand at a whodunit. Unfortunately, the switch in genres exaggerates her weaknesses as a writer rather than her strengths: The characters are wooden, the descriptive prose clunky, and the action simply boring. Why would either prime suspect Ted Winters or star witness Elizabeth agree to spend a week at a spa in each other’s company just before the trial starts, especially after another guest is murdered?

There are also unconvincing references to Carmel, Monterey County, and the surrounding ambience of the peninsula. (One character cancels dinner plans with the mayor of Carmel, but there is no mention of the current mayor’s identity.) Clark sprinkles pointless cliffhanger plot lines throughout, and the real murderer’s identity is obvious halfway through the story. Clark is not a great artist, and never will be. She is an able storyteller, however, and she should be proud of her following. How long they will tolerate misfires like this, though, is hard to tell.