Just Take My Heart

Overview

The latest thriller from America's #1 bestselling Queen of Suspense

In her new thriller, Mary Higgins Clark delves into a legal battle over the guilt or innocence of a man accused of murdering his wife. Woven into her plot is a little-understood, eerie but documented medical phenomenon-the emergence of a donor's traits and memories in the recipient of a heart transplant.

Natalie Raines, famous Broadway star, is murdered after accidentally ...

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Overview

The latest thriller from America's #1 bestselling Queen of Suspense

In her new thriller, Mary Higgins Clark delves into a legal battle over the guilt or innocence of a man accused of murdering his wife. Woven into her plot is a little-understood, eerie but documented medical phenomenon-the emergence of a donor's traits and memories in the recipient of a heart transplant.

Natalie Raines, famous Broadway star, is murdered after accidentally discovering who killed her former roommate, Jamie Evans. Natalie's estranged husband, theatrical agent Gregg Aldrich, was known to have stalked Natalie to find out if she was seeing another man, and becomes "a person of interest" in her death. After a career criminal comes forward to claim that Aldrich hired him to kill his wife, a job he decided to turn down, a Grand Jury indicts Gregg for the murder of his wife.

Emily Wallace, an attractive thirty-two year old widowed assistant prosecutor, is summoned by her boss, Edward "Ted" Scott Wesley, who tells her that he wants her to handle the case, a plum assignment. She spends increasingly long hours preparing for the trial. A seemingly well-meaning neighbor offers to take care of her dog in her absence. Unaware of his violent past, she gives him a key to her home...

As Aldrich's trial is making headlines, Wesley warns Emily that this high-profile case will reveal personal matters about her, such as the fact that she had a heart transplant. And, during the trial, Emily experiences sentiments which defy all reason and continue after Gregg Aldrich's fate is decided by the jury. In the meantime, she does not realize that her own life is now at risk.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
According to Mary Higgins Clark, her novels sprout naturally: "The basic storyline comes first; the main character is next; and then the plot develops." The process sounds simple and critics continue to be tricked by her supposedly formulaic methods, but readers know better. The reigning queen of American suspense continues to spin tightly wound fictions can keep us happily entangled until the very last page. Just Take My Heart is no exception; it's a spellbinder.
Publishers Weekly

Perhaps overcompensating for her lethargic renderings of other Higgins Clark thrillers (e.g., Where Are You Now?), Jan Maxwell picks up pace smartly. The narration is a shade frenetic in the beginning, as Maxwell breathlessly introduces the key players (the murdered actress, Natalie Raines; her husband-and chief suspect-Greg Aldrich; assistant prosecutor Emily Wallace; and her serial killer stalker, Zach Lanning) in an overly upbeat chirp. The quick tempo works better as the plot slogs through procedural matters. All of the men, however, sound too much alike and the women's voices also blur at key points. These flaws aside, this audio book proves entertaining summer listening. A Simon & Schuster hardcover (Reviews, Mar. 30). (Apr.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
An assistant prosecutor trying the biggest case of her life doesn't realize that the victim she's hoping to avenge isn't the only damsel in distress. Fifteen years after her actress roommate Jamie Evans was strangled in Central Park, Broadway sensation Natalie Raines has the awful experience of meeting and recognizing her killer. Hours later, Natalie is shot to death herself. But Bergen County prosecutor Ted Wesley, who never called Jamie's murder anything but a robbery gone bad, fails to connect the two crimes. Instead, he indicts Gregg Aldrich, Natalie's estranged husband and former agent. The most damning (and virtually the only) testimony against Gregg comes from career burglar Jimmy Easton, who bargained down the sentence for his latest job in return for a story about Gregg offering to pay him $25,000 to kill Natalie. Jimmy should be a terrible witness, but he isn't. So even though Michael Gordon, the Courtside TV host who's kept an ominous distance from his old friend in the weeks leading to the trial, runs a series of informal polls that indicate that nearly half the TV audience thinks Gregg is innocent, things look a lot blacker for the defendant in the courtroom. Emily Wallace, the assistant prosecutor Wesley has assigned to the case, wonders if Gregg is guilty after all. Although she doesn't know it, Emily has much bigger problems to deal with. Her solicitous neighbor Zach Lanning is actually Charley Muir, who vanished after killing his wife's family in Iowa and now has his eye on Emily. The closer Emily gets to nailing Natalie's murderer, the closer a second, unrelated murderer is getting to nailing her. Clark (Where Are You Now?, 2008, etc.) handles the courtroom scenescapably, and fans will be as excited as ever coming down the home stretch. It's a shame that the climax awaiting them is the most strained and silly the bestselling author has ever fobbed off on her devoted readers.
From the Publisher
“Intense . . . the action hurtles to a surprising resolution.”
—Publishers Weekly

“A must-read for mystery enthusiasts.”
—Tucson Citizen

“Fans will be as excited as ever coming down the home stretch.”
—Kirkus Reviews

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743582889
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
  • Publication date: 4/7/2009
  • Format: MP3
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Ships to U.S.and APO/FPO addresses only.

Meet the Author

Mary Higgins Clark

Mary Higgins Clark, #1 international and New York Times bestselling author, has written thirty-three suspense novels; three collections of short stories; a historical novel, Mount Vernon Love Story; two children’s books, including The Magical Christmas Horse; and a memoir, Kitchen Privileges. She is also the coauthor with Carol Higgins Clark of five holiday suspense novels. Her books have sold more than 100 million copies in the United States alone.

Biography

The Queen of Suspense, Bronx-born and -bred Mary Higgins Clark has achieved international success against heavy odds. Her father died when she was 11, and her mother struggled to raise and provide for Mary and her two brothers. Clark attended secretarial school after high school and worked for three years in an advertising agency before leaving to become a stewardess for Pan American Airlines. Throughout 1949, she flew international flights to Europe, Africa, and Asia. " I was in a revolution in Syria and on the last flight into Czechoslovakia before the Iron Curtain went down," she recalls. In 1950, she quit her job to marry Warren Clark, a neighbor nine years her senior whom she had known and admired since she was 16.

In the early years of her marriage, Clark began writing short stories, making her first sale in 1956 to Extension Magazine. Between writing and raising a family, the decade flew by. Then, in 1964, Warren Clark suffered a fatal heart attack, leaving his young widow with five children to support. She went to work writing radio scripts; and, around this time, she decided to try her hand at writing books. Inspired by a radio series she was working on, she drafted a biographical novel about George Washington. It was published in 1969 under the title Aspire to the Heavens. (In 2002, it was re-issued as Mount Vernon Love Story.) Her first suspense novel, Where Are the Children?, appeared in print in 1975. It was a huge hit and marked a turning point in her life. Since then, she has developed a loyal fan base, and each of her novels has hit the bestseller lists. She has also co-written stories and novels with her daughter Carol, a successful author in her own right.

In the 1970s, Clark enrolled in Fordham University at Lincoln Center, graduating summa cum laude in 1979. A great supporter of education, she has served as a trustee of her alma mater and Providence College and holds numerous honorary degrees. She remains active in Catholic affairs and has been honored with many awards. Her publisher, Simon & Schuster, funds an annual award in her name to be given to authors of suspense fiction writing in the Mary Higgins Clark tradition.

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    1. Hometown:
      Saddle River, New Jersey and New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 24, 1929
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      New York University; B.A., Fordham University, 1979
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

1

It was the persistent sense of impending doom, not the nor'easter, that made Natalie flee from Cape Cod back to New Jersey in the predawn hours of Monday morning. She had expected to find sanctuary in the cozy Cape house that had once been her grandmother's and now was hers, but the icy sleet beating against the windows only increased the terror she was experiencing. Then, when a power failure plunged the house into darkness, she lay awake, sure that every sound was caused by an intruder.

After fifteen years, she was certain that she had accidentally stumbled upon the knowledge of who had strangled her roommate, Jamie, when they were both struggling young actresses. And he knows that I know, she thought -- I could see it in his eyes.

On Friday night, he had come with a group to the closing night of A Streetcar Named Desire at the Omega Playhouse. She had played Blanche DuBois, the most demanding and satisfying role of her career to date. Her reviews had been wonderful, but the role had taken its emotional toll on her. That was why, after the performance, when someone knocked on the door of her dressing room, she had been tempted not to answer. But she had, and they all crowded in to congratulate her, and out of nowhere she recognized him. In his late forties now, his face had filled out, but he was undoubtedly the person whose picture was missing from Jamie's wallet after her body was found. Jamie had been so secretive about him, only referring to him as Jess, "my pet name for him," as she put it.

I was so shocked that when we were introduced, I called him "Jess," Natalie thought. Everyone was talking so much that I am sure no one else noticed. But he heard me say his name.

Who do I tell? Who would believe me? My word against his? My memory of a small picture that Jamie had hidden in her wallet? I only found it because I had lent her my Visa card and I needed it back. She was in the shower and called to me to get it out of her wallet. That was when I saw the picture, tucked in one of the compartments, behind a couple of business cards.

All Jamie ever told me about him was that he'd tried his hand at acting and wasn't good enough, and that he was in the middle of a divorce. I tried to tell her that was the oldest story in the world, Natalie thought, but she wouldn't listen. She and Jamie had been sharing an apartment on the West Side until that terrible morning when Jamie was strangled while jogging early in Central Park. Her wallet was on the ground, her money and watch were missing. And so wasthe picture of "Jess." I told the cops that, she thought, but they didn't take it seriously. There had been a number of early-morning muggings in the park and they were sure Jamie just happened to be one of the victims, the only fatal victim, as it turned out.

It had been pouring through Rhode Island and Connecticut, but as Natalie drove down the Palisades Parkway the rain steadily lessened. As she drove farther down, she could see that the roads were already drying.

Would she feel safe at home? She wasn't sure. Twenty years ago, after being widowed, her mother, born and raised in Manhattan, had been happy to sell the house and buy a small apartment near Lincoln Center. Last year, when Natalie and Gregg separated, she heard that the modest house in northern New Jersey where she'd been raised was for sale again.

"Natalie," her mother warned, "you're making a terrible mistake. I think you're crazy not to try to make a go of your marriage. Running back home is never the answer for anyone. You can't recreate the past."

Natalie knew it was impossible to make her mother understand that the kind of wife Gregg wanted...

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Reading Group Guide

Summary

When Natalie Raines, one of Broadway's brightest stars, accidentally discovers who killed her former roommate, it sets in motion a series of shocking events that puts more than one life in extreme peril. A few days later Natalie is found in her home in Closter, New Jersey, dying from a gunshot wound.

The case remains unsolved for two years, until Jimmy Easton, a career criminal, comes forward to claim that Natalie's husband had hired him to murder his wife. Assistant prosecutor Emily Wallace is assigned to the case. As she spends increasingly long hours preparing for the trial, a seemingly well-meaning neighbor offers to take care of her dog in her absence. Unaware of his violent past, she gives him a key to her home.

As the murder trial makes headlines, her boss warns Emily that this high-profile case will reveal personal matters about her, such as the fact that she has had a heart transplant. During the trial, Emily experiences sentiments that defy all reason. Woven into the plot is an eerie, little-understood but documented medical phenomenon: the emergence of a donor's traits and memories in the recipient of a heart transplant.

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. Gregg Aldrich, Natalie's husband, recounts that after driving by Natalie's house in New Jersey, he felt that their relationship was truly over. Do you think that Natalie had reached the same conclusion, or that their marriage might have been saved had she lived?

2. Young prosecutor Emily Wallace has a commanding presence in the courtroom as she performs in front of the jury and convinces them that Gregg Aldrich is guilty. What about Emily makes her statements so believable in court?

3. Gregg Aldrich's first appearance on the stand comes close to convincing most of the jury and the public of his innocence. His second appearance, however, turns most of those following the trial in the opposite direction. What changes in Gregg between his two days of testimony? Do you think that Emily is responsible for breaking him on the stand? Why or why not?

4. Why does Michael Gorden suddenly change his mind and believe that Gregg is innocent? Later we learn that the viewers of Courtside are almost evenly split on the issue of Gregg's innocence, while the jury unanimously decides he is guilty. Why do you think there is a discrepancy?

5. Examine the relationship between Gregg Aldrich and his daughter, Katie. Why does Gregg wait until the last minute to make plans for Katie's well-being in his absence?

6. The story begins with Emily Wallace getting assigned her biggest case as an assistant prosecutor. She works long hours on the case to convict a man whom she ultimately decides is innocent. Examine Emily's transition from her conviction that Gregg is guilty to her realization of his innocence. How does she change over the course of the novel?

7. Emily's serial killer neighbor has an unhealthy obsession with her, to say the least. Why do you think he chooses Emily as his next victim?

8. Despite her training as a prosecutor, Emily doesn't realize the extent of the danger that awaits her outside her front door. Discuss possible explanations for this.

9. Jake Reston swears that Billy Tryon didn't coach Jimmy Easton. Reston also tells Emily that he was there for most of the first meeting with Easton. Do you think he's lying or telling the truth? What might be his motivation to lie?

10. As you read the novel, who did you think had killed Natalie Raines? What clues throughout the novel made you suspect him or her? Now that the killer's identity has been revealed, what clues throughout the story may have indicated the true murderer?

11. At the end of the book, Alice decides that she will never tell Gregg or Emily what she knows about Emily's heart. Why do you think she makes this decision? Do you agree with her?

Tips to Enhance Your Book Club

1. Visit the author's website at www.maryhigginsclark.com.

2. Watch a movie based on one of the author's books: Remember Me or We'll Meet Again, both available via Netflix.

3. Check local listings for a showing of A Streetcar Named Desire, the play in which Natalie Raines acts at the start of the book.

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