Literary snobs may huff that they’d never be caught dead reading a book by zillion-selling thriller writer Mary Higgins Clark, but none other than acclaimed novelist David Foster Wallace was a fan, going so far as to include her book Where Are The Children? on the syllabus of a college course he taught. Clark, who is 88, has produced books at a steady rate since Where Are The Children? came out in the mid-70s—All Dressed in White is preceded by at least 40 other books—but now, the name of Alafair Burke appears underneath hers on the cover.
Burke was a highly regarded crime writer in her own right before joining forces with Clark, part of an increasingly common trend in which an older, brand-name author teams up with a younger writer (Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg; James Patterson & David Ellis) in order to produce novels at a faster clip. I have no idea which parts of All Dressed in White are Clark’s and which originated with Burke, but I will say that the book reads like an extraordinarily good Mary Higgins Clark novel.
The novel’s protagonist is Laurie Moran, who works on a popular TV show called “Under Suspicion” (a close cousin to the real-life “Unsolved Mysteries”). Laurie is approached by the mother of Amanda Pierce, who disappeared on her wedding day five years earlier. Naturally, people are constantly begging Laurie to look into various cases, but it sounds to her like this tale would make for riveting TV, especially since Sandra is willing to return to the scene of the (possible) crime, a five-star Florida resort. As Sandra says, “It’s a glamorous setting, and people love stories about weddings, and most of them can’t resist a mystery.”
Not only Sandra but the entire wedding party eventually decamps to the Grand Victoria Hotel to film interviews and reenactments. There’s Amanda’s sister Charlotte, forever overshadowed by her more-glamorous sibling prior to the disappearance; brother Henry, the black sheep of the family; father Walter, owner of a successful lingerie company; party-hearty groomsmen Nick & Austin; and bridesmaid Kate, one of the last people to see Amanda alive. Then there’s Jeff, the groom, who is now married to Meghan—Amanda’s other bridesmaid.
There are plenty of suspects and motives, but there’s also the tantalizing possibility that Amanda may have gotten cold feet and run away. A cancer survivor, Amanda’s personality changed after she finished treatment: “She was no longer going to be the good girl. The good daughter. The good friend. The good wife. She wanted freedom, and she wanted power,” Meghan says.
With almost every new chapter, I was convinced I had everything all figured out, only to have my expectations upended by yet another twist or revelation. Naturally, by the end of the book, Laurie and her team’s sleuthing pays off, and everything falls into place.
Clark & Burke are a dynamic duo, and All Dressed in White is a fun, fast-paced, satisfying mystery novel.