Piece of My Heart by Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke: A simmering new suspense-packed story - book review -

Only days away from her wedding, TV producer Laurie Moran’s plans are thrown into chaos when her fiancé’s seven-year-old nephew is kidnapped.

By Pam Norfolk
Thursday, 18th November 2021, 12:30 pm
Piece of My Heart
Piece of My Heart

The answer to the boy’s disappearance could lie buried in secrets from the past, but it will be a race against time to dig out the truth and rescue the child.

Piece of My Heart is the sixth novel in the gripping Under Suspicion series, written in a dazzling collaboration between veteran bestselling author Mary Higgins Clark, who died last year aged 92, and trained lawyer and thriller writer Alafair Burke.

For decades, Clark delighted readers with her smart, beautifully written murder mysteries, and co-author Burke brought a fresh and exciting element to the Under Suspicion ‘cold case’ series. Together, these two talented writers proved a formidable team, harnessing Clark’s powerful storytelling and experience with Burke’s gift for suspense and authenticity.

New York television producer Laurie Moran’s reality drama, Under Suspicion, is proving a big success. The cold case TV series revisits unsolved true crimes by recreating them with the family of the victim and others involved in the case in the hope of finding new evidence.

And widow Laurie’s personal life has also never looked better. Engaged to her show’s former host and now federal judge, Alex Buckley, Laurie is counting down the last few days to their summer wedding, followed by a honeymoon in Italy.

In the meantime, the couple’s two families are meeting up in the Hamptons to celebrate Alex’s fortieth birthday and the forthcoming nuptials. But the sunshine break takes a dark turn when Alex’s seven-year-old nephew, Johnny Buckley, vanishes from the beach.

Witnesses spotted Johnny playing in the water and collecting shells, but no one remembers seeing him after the morning. At first, the families hope that Johnny got distracted and wandered off but when the boy’s bodyboard washes up on the shore, everyone realises that the worst could have happened.

When Laurie’s first husband, Greg Moran, was murdered seven years ago, their young son, Timmy, witnessed the horror and the killer threatened to return for the boy. And as Johnny bears a strong resemblance to Timmy, Laurie starts to fear that the kidnapping was a case of mistaken identity and her own child is also in danger.

As events from years ago are slowly revealed, it becomes clear that the answers to Johnny’s disappearance lie in a family’s long-buried past… and the clock is ticking.

This delightful series has invested much in not just the compelling mysteries but in the warmth and charm of the regular players who cannot fail to win hearts with their vibrant personalities, their endearing sense of camaraderie, and the domestic complexities that make them so authentic.

And emotions certainly run high in this simmering new suspense-packed story which delivers a cast of beautifully portrayed characters, some unexpected twists and turns, and plenty of drama, red herrings and fascinating detective work.

With its chilling theme of child kidnap and a compelling exploration of family dynamics, Piece of My Heart plays out much closer to home for Laurie and her husband-to-be Alex as they race to track down little Johnny and empty a closet full of skeletons.

Ideal as a standalone and a fitting final flourish from Mary Higgins Clark…

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £8.99)