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Tuesday, December 2, 2014


4 stars out of 5

This book brings together two best-selling authors who have teamed up to write "An Under Suspicion Novel" - which some say (and the subtitle suggests) is the beginning of a new series. If that's the case, count me as a bandwagon-jumper when the next one is published.

"Under Suspicion" is the title of a reality TV show produced by Laurie Moran and her team. The pilot for the series, which revisits cold case crimes through reenactment, focused on the murder of Laurie's own husband and was a great success. Now, she's found a topic for the second, the so-called "Cinderella Murder" of a talented UCLA student named Susan Dempsey some 20 years ago. First up, though, she must convince her boss that it's worth the time and, most importantly, financial investment.

She does that by looking at the evidence and asking questions; why, for instance, was one of Susan's shoes missing when her body was found (hence the moniker "Cinderella Murder")? Why does Susan's mother fervently believe her daughter's cheating boyfriend killed her? Is there a connection with the leader of a controversial mega-church? Needless to say, finding the answers is appealing to her boss, but it isn't until top attorney Alex Buckley, who served as the host/interviewer in the pilot, agrees to return that Laurie gets the go-ahead and a production budget.

As one might expect, production doesn't quite go as planned, with twists and turns and more than one new murder. In fact, there aren't a lot of big surprises anywhere in the plot, from who's going to bite the dust next to a blossoming love interest to whodunit. I also noticed a couple of what I'll call inconsistencies along the way - facts that are presented in one manner and contradicted a couple of chapters later - leading to my rating of 4 stars instead of 5.

That said, this is  murder on the lighter side (meaning hardly any blood and guts and no messing with my head) - something I've come to expect from Higgins Clark. It's a quick, enjoyable read that was exactly what I needed after reading some heavy-duty, mind-bending thrillers.

The Cinderella Murder by Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke (Simon & Schuster, November 2014); 320 pp.

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