Picks and Pans Review: While My Pretty One Sleeps

updated 06/26/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/26/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Mary Higgins Clark

Yanking off her "shroud" (a cleaner's bag) before cramming her body into a cave, Ethel Lambston's killer contemplates his handiwork: "The white wool suit was stained with blood. The collar of her blouse was caught in the gaping hole in her throat. One eye was slightly open.... The mouth that never knew repose in Ethel's life was pursed as though about to start I another one of her interminable sentences." Free-lance writer Ethel is a victim nobody could—or did, for that matter—love. Bossy, nosy, obnoxious, she had been investigating the New York fashion industry for a magazine piece. Just I about the only person who defends her is I Neeve Kearny, the daughter of a retired police commissioner. At 27, Neeve has a I designers boutique that depends on big spenders like Ethel. And it is Neeve who I first suspects Ethel has been done in.

Fans of Clark's multilayered mysteries (A Stranger Is Watching, Where Are the Children?) will find the Elmore Leonard like humor in her sketching of Ethel an amusing departure. But the rest of the novel is pure Clark. The list of suspects includes such vivid characters as Ethel's ex-husband, whose second wife resents his alimony payments; Ethel's sleazy nephew; and a designer who has illegal workers sewing in sweatshops. Then there's a delivery boy who has been hired to kill I Neeve as part of an old mob vendetta.

There are a half-dozen other important characters, yet Clark makes them so indelible, it's easy to keep them straight. While My Pretty One Sleeps is as addictive as Clark's previous titles, a flashlight-under-the-covers book for grownups. (Simon I and Schuster, $19.95)

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