No Place Like Home
By Mary Higgins Clark
Simon & Schuster 2005©
Readers often ask, “Where did you get the idea for that story?” In the case of No Place Like Home a New Jersey law was the source for Mary Higgins Clark. A real estate law to be specific, but to be more specific a real estate agent must inform prospective buyers if the home he/or she considers purchasing carries a stigma that might cause psychological damage to the purchaser. Like ghosts haunting the place or other sinister things connected with the facility.
As a prelude—or an introduction that gives the reader a chill and sets the stage for what might be coming next, Clark includes the oft repeated chant…
“Lizzie Borden took an ax
And gave her mother forty whacks
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty one.”
An unthinkable crime, a child killing a parent, and wounding another. Ten-year old Liza Barton, in a dreadful scene of domestic abuse, is awakened by an argument between her mother and her estranged stepfather. She accidentally shoots her mother. She was trying to protect her from that stepfather. She is arrested, but the judge finds her not guilty.
Exonerated by the justice system, but not the town or her conscience, Liza is taken in by distant relatives from across the country, California cousins. Liza is given a new name to protect her and help her get a new start on life.
Celia, twenty-four years later divorced and remarried receives a birthday gift from her second husband. He buys her a house, it turns out to be the house of her childhood, the house in Mendham, New Jersey where she killed her mother and wounded her step father.
The terror she thought she left behind resurfaces as they are about to move in to the new place. The lawn and house are marked up with messages of the old…Little Lizzie’s Place—Beware is painted on the front lawn. A skull and cross bones is carved into the mahogany front door, a doll with a toy gun is propped against that door and the siding is splotched with red paint.
“Blood. It wasn’t paint. It was Mother’s blood. I could feel my arms and neck and face becoming sticky with her blood.” Liza/Celia is transported back to that dreadful day.
Her husband is outraged. The real estate agent is beside herself with embarrassment and Lisa/Celia is ready to collapse, but dares not show the terror she feels. Not until she can prove her innocence to her husband before she tells him or the town who she really is.
It all gets worse from here on out. Who knows her—who remembers what she did—why harass her all these years after she received an innocent verdict? Does her stepfather have anything to do with this?
The reader will fly through the pages, sharing Liza/Celia’s terror and fear so thick it is nearly palpable, all the way to the end. Hoping for a solution, some good in Liza’s life, wanting her to find peace and recognition as the innocent person she is, or is she? In a word this is an unputdownable recommended read.