It’s every parent’s worst nightmare- one warm, sunny day in Central Park, little Matthew Carpenter disappears without a trace while under the less-than-watchful eye of a young babysitter. His distraught parents- interior designer Alexandra ‘Zan’ Moreland and PR extraordinaire Ted Carpenter- struggle to understand how Matthew could be kidnapped in broad daylight, and dread to think why he was taken in the first place. All they know is that, as the days turn into weeks, and no sign of Matthew can be found despite an intensive police search, they never give up hoping for his safe return.
Two years later, Zan is still struggling with the loss of her only child, and not even her flourishing interior design business can keep her from wondering daily where Matthew could be, or how she could get him back. Although she has spent thousands of dollars over the years on private detectives and psychics (with fruitless results) Zan is determined to continue her search, refusing to believe that he could be dead. Then, on what would have been Matthew’s fifth birthday, a tourist’s photos emerge in the media, showing a woman who appears to be Zan taking Matthew from his stroller.
Suddenly, the course of the entire investigation has turned around, with the public, and even the police, assuming that Zan kidnapped her own child in an elaborate plot to do away with him, laying the blame on others instead. What’s more, Zan soon discovers that her bank accounts are emptying, and that unauthorised purchases are being made against her name, and begins to suspect that someone is stealing her identity.
As accusations fly and the paparazzi hound her, Zan begins to question her fragile mental state. Adding to the increasing pressure are her angry ex-husband and a spiteful old business rival, who are determined to see her suffer behind bars (for their own personal reasons). With the help of her close friends, Zan has to prove that she is not the woman in those photos, and try to find Matthew before it’s too late…
Mary Higgins Clark is lauded as one of the world’s favourite thriller writers, and with a career spanning over 40 years, she has certainly built a firm band of followers. But despite her successes in the crime-writing industry, I couldn’t help but feel let down by this novel. While the storyline was engaging, I found myself getting frustrated by Higgins Clark’s ‘simple’ writing style. There were a lot of ‘he thought, she thought’ moments (right from the start of the novel), as well as an unnecessary amount of repetition on certain points. She also seems to think that her readers need reminding of her characters’ entire names at the start of every chapter. This may sound like I’m nit-picking, but I have read a lot of crime novels, with much more complex storylines and language, and it almost feels as though she is dumbing down her story- in a sense, providing a crime novel for someone who would have trouble following a regular crime book. This is the only one of her books I have ever read, so I can’t really say if this is her normal style or not, but it hasn’t inspired me to pick up and read any more of her novels. Overall, the plot of I’ll Walk Alone is interesting, but could have been made better with stronger writing and a more complex structure.