Creepy villian is at the heart of Clark’s novel

“Just Take My Heart” by Mary Higgins Clark, c. 2009, Simon & Schuster, $24.95, 322 pages.

The Bookworm

“Just Take My Heart” by Mary Higgins Clark, c. 2009, Simon & Schuster, $24.95, 322 pages.

For every day you are alive, you are in danger.

Leave the house and a tree could fall on you as you walk to the street. Or an out-of-control car could run you over. The copy machine at work might explode. You trip over a crack in the sidewalk and crack your head open.

Statistically speaking, mind you, it’s not going to happen. There’s a good chance you’ll survive for the next several hours and you’ll live to see another day.

Another day of danger.

In the new book “Just Take My Heart” by Mary Higgins Clark, a young prosecutor is in charge of a court case that could make her career. But what she doesn’t know might kill her.

It was no secret that Broadway actress Natalie Raines and her estranged husband Gregg Aldrich were splitting. Everybody knew that Gregg wanted to reconcile, but Natalie hinted that she had moved on and found another man. So it was no surprise that, when Natalie was discovered dying on her kitchen floor, Gregg was at the top of the suspect list.

When sleazy con man Jimmy Easton was arrested and told police that Gregg had offered him $10,000 to murder Natalie, it seemed like a slam-dunk case for prosecutor Emily Wallace.

Wallace was young and had worked hard at the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office. This plum case, handed to her because her boss was hoping to be appointed to a higher office, would put her in the limelight and the front pages.

And Emily deserved it. Finally, things were going well in her life. Not long ago, her husband, Michael, was killed in Iraq and shortly after that, Emily had a heart transplant. While her health was somewhat frail, her spirit was strong. She was going to make sure Aldrich paid for Raines’ murder.

Zach Lanning thought the authorities sure were stupid. When he killed his first wife; then his second wife; then his third wife, her children and her mother, it was way too easy to escape by changing his appearance and his name. It was almost funny, he thought. But it wouldn’t be so funny when he killed Emily Wallace. That, thought Zach, would be payback for her alone.

Despite a colossally transparent plot line that can (disappointingly) be seen a mere one-third into this book, “Just Take My Heart” is pretty good.

The author’s characters are, with one exception, not much different than in any of her other novels. What sets this book apart is that the “bad guy” is one of the creepiest, most unsettling killers I’ve seen in a long time. You meet Lanning early on and he’s the kind of character that makes you want to go check the doors and window locks again.

And again. Which definitely makes this book one to read during daylight hours.

If you’re in search for a decent novel, one without “four-letter words” or overt blood-and-guts, then look for “Just Take My Heart.” Just don’t take it to bed with you.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. She lives in West Salem, Wis., with her two dogs and 9,500 books.

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