Before I Say Goodbye by Mary Higgins Clark

I bought this book at the BooksByWeight sale that takes place near SNDT College in Churchgate every year. Sometimes you pick up a book and go: “Here’s an author I have heard of but not read before” and read the blurb and think “Okay, murder, political thriller, supernatural…I’m hooked” and when you finish it, you’re left with a lingering feeling of “I don’t know what happened here. Did I like it or positively hate it or both?”

That’s the review in a nutshell. You still want me to elaborate on that? Okay. Here goes.

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Source: Goodreads.com

 

I love a good heartbeat & pulse rate escalating thriller as much as the next person. Hell I am even game for a trashy one every now and then, preferably with excellent pulpy artwork and unabashed adherence to the pulp thriller genre.

Nell MacDermott is an orphan raised by her influential New Yorker Congressman grandfather Mac. She’s married to influential New York City architect Adam Cauliff. She’s a successful columnist who has forsaken a political career for marital harmony much to the chagrin of her grandfather who is hell bent on changing her mind. Nell agrees. Bitter arguments ensue between her and Adam who eventually dies in an explosion of his cabin cruiser along with three of his business associates.

Wracked with guilt a devastated Nell tries to establish contact with her late husband through a medium. Thus begins a story of deceit, heartbreaks and corruption as our protagonist delves into the murky world of politics and…

Hold on right there!! Did I just say ‘murky world’ of politics? The politics depicted here is surprisingly, almost unrealistically clean. No one even discusses politics, important bills & legislations. Nell who wants to run for the Congress spends more time getting to the bottom of the mystery than actually doing some campaigning. Okay given she is recently widowed and takes upon herself the onus of clearing her late husband’s name, but still a word or two on different reforms she’d effect once she comes to power would have convinced us of her efficacy as a future Congresswoman.

There are no shady politicians discussing nefarious schemes. Other than Mac, it does not even feature any other seasoned politician with different, often warring views on the different issues facing NYC.

And issues are there aplenty. The shadowy world of politician-builder nexus, architecture scams, under the table dealings are real world issues that are introduced in the book but not tackled properly. The author merely touches upon hot-button issues like feminism but the readers are left yearning for more.

Nell gives in to her husband’s demands & turns down a political career for the sake of her marriage, thereby landing a serious blow to women’s rights movements around the world. What kind of a wuss does that despite being a highly educated woman from an influential family? And it’s not like she has made peace with her decision; she secretly resents Adam and yearns to go back to politics, something that comes so naturally to her. Yes we know feminism and political careers – it’s not an easy mix. Maybe the author never even intended it to be a feminist book. But this? Ugh.

It’s not just Nell whose lives revolve around the men in their lives. Lisa Ryan has no clue about their financial records because she blindly trusts her husband with it. Aunt Gertrude, an otherwise intelligent woman, lets herself be bossed around by the otherwise well-meaning Mac. Even the nice Dr. Dan, the ‘hero’ who ultimately ‘saves’ Nell (what the hell was she thinking going into the enemy camp alone without informing anyone? Why is it that our authors are still creating dimwitted heroines with zero regards for personal safety, waiting to be rescued by dashing heroes?) is annoyingly interfering, bullying her into accepting dinner invitations (his own words mind you!)

Anyway sorry for turning this into a feminist tirade. That was never the point of this. The book could also do with a good editor. Sample this: Despite being a highly influential Congressman Mac has the background checking skills of a 6 year old & fails to protect Nell. Nell clearly shows signs of psychic ability, a fact that both she & Gert have accepted. Yet when it comes to visiting a psychic, she said she does not believe in that. Lisa Ryan calls Nell and some chapters later the book mentions she does not have her mobile number. And somewhere it has even misprinted Nell for Lisa! The supernatural bit feels hokey, forced. The ending was predictable, crowd-pleasing and almost laughably unbelievable.

But lack of editing aside, I also enjoyed reading it. Okay, maybe I was so curious to know the solution & see how the drama unfolds, that I kept reading and wincing at the same time. The book is a fast-paced thriller with a what-could-have-been-a-terribly-interesting-plot-if-not-for-the-treatment. It is an excellent weekend or an airplane or a train read. The logical loopholes rile you up but it’s enjoyable nonetheless. That’s the thing about thrillers. But who’s complaining?

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