The Lost Years by Mary Higgins Clark: A review

I may have read a Mary Higgins Clark book at sometime in the past, but I honestly can't remember what and when, so I don't know if this book is typical of her writing. She's been very successful with her suspense novels over the years and one frequently sees her on best-seller lists. Indeed, this book was on The New York Times best-seller list for a while (and may still be), but it's really hard to understand why. It is a particularly bland and simplistic piece of writing. 

Simple declarative sentence follows simple declarative sentence ad nauseum and we get to see the story from the perspective of virtually every character in the book. A bit fewer perspectives would have given a cleaner and more readable book, in my opinion, and a few more complex compound sentences might have brought more variety and interest to the reading. Oh, well...

While I was reading the book, news broke that a historian of early Christianity at Harvard Divinity School had decoded a fourth century papyrus that refers to Jesus' wife.  As one who is fascinated by archaeology, that added a fillip of extra interest to the book for me, which it badly needed. 

The Lost Years revolves around a parchment which is alleged to be a letter written by Jesus to Joseph of Arimathea. Biblical scholar Jonathan Lyons finds the parchment as he is examining documents from a safe in an old church. He is convinced that it is authentic. He confides to some of his closest associates about the find and gives the document to his mistress for safekeeping! Whatever happened to safety deposit boxes?

He can't keep the parchment at home because his wife has Alzheimer's and is given to destructive behavior. He fears she might find it and deface or destroy it. 

Meantime, he is appalled that one of the people he has confided in has suggested that he can find a buyer for the parchment on the black market and the two can share the profits. Lyons wants the parchment to be returned to the Vatican Library from whence it was stolen in the 15th century. 

But a few days later, Lyons is shot dead while sitting at his desk at home. His twenty-eight-year-old daughter, Mariah, from whom he had become estranged when she learned of his relationship with the mistress, finds the body and discovers her mother covered in blood and crouched in a closet clutching the murder weapon. Did she kill her husband in a jealous rage over the mistress or is the murder somehow related to the parchment? The police think the former; Mariah is convinced it is the latter and is determined to prove it with the help of her friends. 

There was just a lot of extraneous schmaltzy fluff in this book that really detracted from the story for me. We never really got to know any of the characters well because the perspectives kept hopping around from person to person. And the author engaged in a lot of deliberate misdirection in trying to keep the reader's eye off the actual villain in the piece. About two-thirds of the way through, I felt that I knew who that person was and it turned out I was right, but I really didn't  care much anymore.


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