For her 27th suspense novel, Clark (Daddy’s Little Girl, 2002, etc.) turns to the founding figure of the modern Gothic: the mysterious husband who may or may not be a killer.
Twenty-two years ago, Kathryn Lansing, a little girl visiting the Carrington estate with her landscaper father, overheard an argument over money between an unseen man and woman. That evening, neighbor Susan Althorp, 18, vanished after scion Peter Carrington drove her home from a dinner dance on the estate. Two weeks later, the Carringtons fired Jonathan Lansing, and two weeks after that, he disappeared as well, a presumed suicide. The police investigated but could never find enough evidence to indict Peter for murder, not even when his pregnant wife Grace drowned in their swimming pool hours after a party in which he excoriated her drinking. That’s a lot of backstory, but Clark folds it into her narrative as expertly as a chef preparing a lump-free sauce. Once Kay Lansing asks Peter to host a reception to benefit the Englewood (N.J.) library, events move fast. Peter’s soon swept her off her feet in an utterly unconvincing romance; Susan Althorp’s dying mother calls Peter a murderer in a national magazine; Kay sees that her bridegroom is a sleepwalker; bodies turn up on the estate; the D.A. indicts Peter; his stepmother Elaine Walker, desperate to rescue her gallery-owner son Richard from his latest gambling debts, blackmails Kay with what looks like a damning piece of evidence. Kay knows her husband wouldn’t hurt a fly when he’s awake, but as a sleepwalker, could he be channeling The Moonstone along with Rebecca?
Less peril and more mystification than usual. The conscientiously plotted result provides less tension and a longer wait before Clark’s trademark velvet-glove momentum kicks in.