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Having recently hit a reading slump after finishing the Hunger Games trilogy and sulking for several weeks, I had a good scour on Amazon to see if any of my favourite authors had released any new material. Unfortunately for me, new releases are not due till October, so I had to make do with some recommendations from Amazon. At the time, a few weeks ago they had a loyalty promotion where you received a certain percentage back of the price you had paid for the books if you reached a certain level. Unfortunately for me, I only downloaded one book, forgot about the promotion and didn't receive any money back and didn't overly enjoy the book I downloaded for the Kindle anyway! Typical! Don't get me wrong the book was okay, but recently I've become quite sulky with books / authors, if they don't grab me or if I figure out the story before the half way point. Unfortunately for Mary Higgins Clark and her 2006 No Place Like Home book, it failed to continue to grab me after 50 pages when I realised it was going to be samey all the way through. Even more annoying was I figured out the who, what, why and when after about 100 pages. Extremely disappointing! I only then continued to read the book to prove I was indeed a smarty pants!
So what's the book about?
The premise of the book is definitely promising and had me interested when looking at which book I would purchase to download. Basically the book opens with Liza Barton, a ten year old girl who has just killed her mother. She didn't mean to, although no one believes this, and it was purely down to her wicked step father who tried to attack her mother and in effort to protect her mother, Liza accidentally shoots her mother dead. Fast forward twenty or so years and Liza now lives under an assumed identity of Celia Nolan. A mother herself, she is fiercely protective of her son, and in an effort to protect him, she has failed to tell her loving husband of the crime she supposedly committed all those years ago. Her husband Alex, madly in love with her, buys her a new house as a birthday present as they live in an apartment in Manhattan and wish for more space. When Celia pulls up outside her new home for the first time, she is horrified to discover that it is her childhood home, the one where she shot her mother. Feeling like she is too deep inside of a lie, she fails to tell her husband her secret and lives in constant worry of being recognised as Liza. Terrible occurrences start happening around the house, and its clear that someone knows exactly who she is and won't let sleeping dogs lie.
Characters and plot:
Celia is a likeable character and I easily warmed to her. The author seemed to introduce several new characters very close together and at times I had trouble keeping track. I sometimes had to skip back a few pages to try and jog my memory as to who was who. It was a promising idea for a book, but I found that it seemed to go round in circles in some parts. The fateful night of her childhood was replayed several times, and several 'big things' that happened within the book were all quite samey. As the book was mainly set in the home of Celia, I also found that this made it quite monotonous.
Yes, several. Firstly, the book was predictable in my opinion. I don't want to give away the book in any way but to me, the culprit of Celia's miseries was simply screaming out to the reader in a 'don't notice me, don't notice me' way. Too obvious. Secondly, I felt like throwing the book every time Higgins Clark mentioned the time in the book. Don't ask me why it annoyed me so much, but she would refer to the time as, for example, 'ten of two' instead of 'ten to two'. Okay, that sounds petty, but it happened constantly through the book and I found it very old fashioned and just plain annoying!
Idea of the book:
In the acknowledgements Clark writes: "Last year, my friend ... who is a real estate agent, asked me if I knew about a New Jersey law that states that a real estate agent must inform a prospective buyer if the home he or she is considering carries a stigma that might cause psychological damage to the purchaser. Maybe there's a book in it for you," suggested the woman. That law was the genesis of this current novel.'
I think I am pretty much the only person that I can find online that didn't seem to like this book! I read things such as 'This is intriguing, page-turning stuff, full of twists and mysteries as the heroine is faced with one trauma and life-threatening situation after another but battles on against adversity' or 'This is a truly fantastic book'. Sorry, I just can't agree. I found it predicable, lacking in suspense, un-thrilling and not particularly original. A 'safe' book, I would say. Higgins Clark has written over 20 books so maybe this was just not one of her best, but I'm not sure that I'll be running out to read another by her in any rush. Sorry!
Publication Date: 01/01/2006
Would I recommend: No, but if you are a fan of Mary Higgins Clark then give it a try. Maybe I was just being miserable!
The inspiration for "No Place Like Home" is explained in the Acknowledgements, where author Mary Higgins Clark explains that she was speaking to her real estate agent friend, who "asked me if I knew about a New Jersey law that states that a real estate agent must inform a prospective buyer if the home he or she is considering carries a stigma that might cause psychological damage to the purchaser. Maybe there's a book in it for you".
The woman was right, as Higgins has creates a successful book around this very premise. On her thirty fourth birthday, Celia Nolan and her four year old son Jack are treated to a surprise by Celia's new husband, Alex. However, standing inside their new home, Celia is far from pleased by her husbands surprise, in fact she is horrified. "I cannot believe I am standing in the exact spot where I was standing when I killed my mother.
Celia's story starts here, where it is explained that a tragedy happened twenty five years ago in the house that Celia (then called Liza Barton) grew up in, Celia's mother was killed and Celia was charged with her murder. Although acquitted, many believed she was guilty and so Celia was adopted by Martin and Kathleen Kellogg, where her name was changed to Celia and her new identity was created - no one new her secret until she decides to confide in her late husband (Jacks father) who manages on his death bed to get her to promise never to tell anyone about her past in fear that their son will suffer for it. Celia has been true to her word so far, but now wishes that she could tell Alex why she dislikes this house so much. Unable to tell him the truth, Celia decides to grin and bear it, only to discover that people she has been in contact with have started dying and her truth is about to be exposed...
This was yet another book that I picked up in the hotel "library" whilst in turkey. Having never read a book by this author I wasn't quite sure what to expect but the premise intrigued me enough to start it. This book wastes no time in getting to the heart of the matter, and there are no secrets about Mary's side of thing for the reader, although the rest of the characters are unaware that she is "Little Lizze Borden" (as she was dubbed, her name being similar at the time) as a reader we are fully aware of what actually happened that night to her mother, the events leading up to it and how Celia feels about it all including the involvement and relationship with her step father. This gave me a certain amount of sympathy for Celia and it also creates a great platform for the reader to have real empathy also when things started going wrong.
Celia is desperate to get on with her new life with her new husband but feels trapped by this terrible event in her past that she cannot change. As the book progresses, I found that Celia's courage built making her an even more interesting heroine but at the start of the book, I have to say that at times I just felt frustrated and her character was slightly unbelievable. I think this had more to do with a hole in the plot that didn't quite fit. The fact that Celia has not told her new husband about her past seems almost unbelievable to me, and the reason behind it? She promised her ex husband, who is now dead. Instead, she decides to suffer her bad memories in the house until she can convince him to move, for me this was a step too far. Like I have said, she is redeemed further in to the book by the fact that she becomes determined to find out what happened all those years ago and clear her name, but I felt that this story line was a bit flimsy to say the least!
As well as clear her name over the death of her mother, there are other sub plots which tie in nicely with the story overall. There are mysteries surrounding the murdered estate agent who sold Alex the house and also the discovery of the relationship between Celia's mother, her ex step father and Celia's fathers death. All of these stories are well thought out and were real page turners for me. I felt that the story was suspenseful, interesting and extremely readable although I have read several reviews now that say that this book is not up to Clark's usual standard.
Overall I would say that this is a decent crime thriller judged purely on the fact that at the beginning of the story, I thought I was aware of pretty much how it was going to all pan out. It isn't too difficult to work out who does what, especially when you get about half way through - I had, as most will - my suspicions but the details and the revelation are what make it really interesting. I'd definitely pick up another by this author - especially as this is supposed to be her weakest book to date!