Mary Higgins Clark, America's "Queen of Suspense," delves into the mystery of psychic powers and communication with the dead in her gripping new thriller, Before I Say Good-Bye.
When Adam Cauliff's new cabin cruiser, Cornelia II, blows up in New York harbor with him and several close business associates aboard, his wife, Nell MacDermott, is not only distraught at the loss but wracked with guilt because she and Adam had just had a serious quarrel and she had told him not to come home.
The quarrel was precipitated by Nell's decision to try to win the congressional seat long held by her grandfather Cornelius MacDermott. Orphaned at age ten, she had been raised by "Mac," as she called him, and was always at his side on Capitol Hill. Politics was in her blood, and Adam had known her ambitions when they married. Suddenly, however, he became opposed to her plan to run for Congress.
Nell, like her great-aunt Gert, possesses psychic gifts, which her grandfather scoffingly dismisses as "flights of fantasy." As a child she had been aware of the deaths of both her parents and grandmother at the exact moment they died. She knew because at that very moment she sensed their presence near her.
Even though Nell has the rare gift of extrasensory perception, she is much too levelheaded to accept most of the claims made by many so-called psychics and is skeptical about Aunt Gert's fascination with mediums. After Adam's death, however, Gert begs Nell to see a medium, Bonnie Wilson, who has contacted her, claiming she is in touch with Adam. Still regretting her last angry words to Adam, Nell agrees, hoping that she will be able to reach him through the medium and part from him in peace.
As the investigation into the boat's explosion proceeds, Nell is shocked by the official confirmation that it was not an accident but the result of foul play. Adam, an architect, had been involved in a major construction project on land he had recently purchased and which had since had a spectacular rise in value.
Was Adam the target of the explosion? Or was it Winifred Johnson, his self-effacing, fifty-two-year-old assistant, who knew too much about bribery in the construction business and who was openly in love with him? Or was it Sam Krause, a builder with a questionable reputation who was involved in the new project? Or Jimmy Ryan, the debt-ridden construction foreman whose wife, after his death, discovers money hidden in their home? Or was it Peter Lang, the wealthy man-about-town real-estate entrepreneur, whose minor traffic accident caused him to miss the fatal meeting on the boat?
As Nell searches for the truth about Adam's death, she carries out instructions from Adam transmitted through the medium. What she does not know is that she is being closely watched, and the nearer she comes to learning what actually happened on the boat that night, the nearer she is to becoming the next victim of a ruthless killer.
Romantic suspense has no more reliable champion than Clark, despite the relative weakness of her writing. For 25 years, through 22 novels (counting this one), she has delivered respectable entertainment to her legions of fans, who haven't dwindled in number. This novel, too, gives them what they want--a damsel in distress aided by a dashing knight; and Clark adds a little zest to the formula by weaving psychic phenomena, including messages from the dead, throughout. The damsel is columnist Nell McDermot, granddaughter of legendary Manhattan congressman Cornelius McDermott and about to run for office herself. Nell's plans are put on hold when the ship on which her husband, Adam, an architect, is attending a business meeting is blown to pieces. Evidence surfaces that Adam may have been involved in shady deals; meanwhile, the cops investigate the explosion, with suspicion falling on a petty hood looking for vengeance for one of those deals; a new man--stalwart physician Dan Minor--enters Nell's life, as does a psychic who claims to be channeling Nell's dead husband; and a predatory real-estate developer circles Nell and property she's inherited from Adam. For much of the novel, the danger is more implied than actual, like dark clouds amassing in the sky, and often manifests itself psychically as Nell sees black auras envelop people or feels terribly afraid. The novel's finale, however, which unmasks some unexpected villains, pulls out the stops in melodramatic fashion. Clark's characters aren't deep--after donating old clothes to charity, two of them, "feeling virtuous for having done a good deed had lunch at a new Thai restaurant on Second and Eighty-first"--but they're breezy fun, and so is this confection of a book. 1.1 million first printing; Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club Main Selection; simultaneous S&S Audio; 7-city author tour.