Death Wears A Beauty Mask & Other Stories is a collection of short stories by Mary Higgins Clark. Of all the books checked out at the library where I work, 90% of them are mysteries. I rarely read this genre (unless the author is named Robert Galbraith) and was feeling more than a little left out!
Without any personal recommendations to go off, I decided that reading a book by Clark would be a good introduction to the genre, since she is the Queen of Suspense, after all. When I saw this paperback copy at the Tucson Festival of Books in March, I knew this was a good time to give it a shot.
There are ten short stories in this book:
- Death Wears A Beauty Mask
- When the Bough Breaks
- Voices in the Coalbin
- The Cape Cod Masquerade
- Definitely, a Crime of Passion
- The Man Next Door
- Haven’t We Met Before?
- The Funniest Thing Has Been Happening Lately
- The Tell-Tale Purr
My favorites were the title story, “Death Wears A Beauty Mask” and “The Cape Cod Masquerade”. In “Beauty Mask” you get more of a novella than a short story as it was running at a little over one hundred pages. It felt very complete and was of course suspenseful, especially the last few pages. The characters were memorable, and I liked the twist of the sisters, and the friend, resembling one another so much that it added an additional complication to the story. It was very believable which I was not expecting either. It’s all about those little details!
“The Cape Cod Masquerade” features two of Clark’s most famous characters, Alvirah and Willy (who have their own series, consisting of 11 books) and I have to say they were very likable. I will definitely keep their series in mind for future reading. I loved that they were “average-Joe’s” who just happened upon a mystery, saw a chance to help, and were able to expose the murderer. This one had a slightly predictable plot, but the characters themselves were unpredictable and that was what I enjoyed most.
In the introduction, Clark says that she started writing “Beauty Mask” in 1972 but wasn’t getting anywhere with it, and set it aside after about 50 pages. She also reveals that “Stowaway” was her first published short story, and that this book on the whole consists of what she would call her early years as a writer.
My initial thought while reading was that I could really tell when these stories were written. The dialogue and descriptions just screamed 70s, not to mention the female characters were being pandered to and condescended left and right! So if you decide to read this book, be prepared for a little of that. (And lots of marriages with 20+ year age gaps…). Beyond that, it is clear that she is a leading voice in the mystery genre and for good reason. These stories were exceptionally written and held my attention throughout.
After dipping my toes into the mystery genre with this book of short stories, I can definitely say that I will be incorporating more mysteries into my reading list in the future.
What About You?
What is your favorite genre? How do you feel about mysteries? Give me recommendations in the comments! 🙂