Hooray for me! I actually finished two entries for the Murder, Monsters and Mayhem Challenge. And they couldn't be at more opposite ends of the spectrum. One five-star read and one that received one star only because I'm not sure you can give a zero rating.
Where are the Children? by Mary Higgins Clark
This is old-school thriller writing. I read this book in the 70's and thought I remembered the story - but I wasn't even close. (Now I'm wondering what book I AM remembering...)
To escape the terrible secret in her past and the people who knew about it, Nancy Harmon changed her hair color, moved across the country and married Ray Eldredge, believing that at last she had begun a new life. Seven years have passed and she is happy with her home, her husband and her two beautiful children.
Then an article appears about a famous California murder trial, along with a picture of a woman who looks suspiciously like Nancy. That very morning, her two children disappear from the yard - and the past and present become inexorably linked. The police fear that Nancy may have snapper her tenuous hold on reality. They know nothing about the existence of the stranger in town who holds the key to the children's lives.
I have been in a reading slump lately -- couldn't get involved in anything, nothing was interesting. That's what inspired me to return to the tried-and-true. Mary Higgins Clark set the bar for page-turners. The story is fast-paced, with enough hints to keep you guessing without revealing too much and ruining the twisting ending, and just creepy enough to qualify it for Mx3.
Ms.Clark's more recent novels have lost something, in my opinion. They tend to be more benign, less intricate, less....thrilling. If you are only familiar with the Mary Higgins Clark of the last 10-15 years, I encourage you to try some vintage suspense.
In the Tall Grass by Stephen King and Joe Hill
begins with a sister and brother who pull off to the side of the road after hearing a young boy crying for help from beyond the tall grass. Within minutes they are disoriented, in deeper than seems possible, and they've lost one another. The boy's cries are more and more desperate. What follows is a terrifying, entertaining, and masterfully told tale, as only Stephen King and Joe Hill can deliver.
This is a short-story (about 40 pages) and that's a good thing! At least the time I wasted was relatively small. It started out brilliantly, and classic Stephen King -- a common situation that turns bizarre, but maintains that basis of reality that keeps the reader thinking there is a logical solution. Dave and I were especially enjoying it because it's set in Kansas, in an area we're familiar with, and involved the Tall Grass Prairie that I love. We were pumped for an awesome journey with the horror "King" (pun intended.) But with about 15 pages left, it went totally off the rails and veered from brilliant to just plain stupid. There was no point, no progress, no redeeming value. It apparently became a contest between two authors to see how disgusting they could be and how many people could be suckered into paying for it. Honestly, it made me angry that a writing super-star took the easy way out, opting for the gross-out instead of an actual climax to the story. This isn't horror, this is horrific.
Update: Can't believe I forgot to mention that The World's Largest Ball of Twine in Cawker City, Kansas plays a part in this book. Cawker is only 30 miles from where I grew up and the giant ball of twine is a familiar sight. When we used to drive through there on our way to see family, Dave would always hit the brakes and yell "Look at that ball of twine!" -- just to annoy the kids. And it did.