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Moonlight Becomes You


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About The Book

From Queen of Suspense Mary Higgins Clark, a thriller “that grabs you with the first paragraph and never let’s go” (USA TODAY) about a woman desperate to uncover the truth behind her beloved stepmother’s death.

At a party in Manhattan, Maggie Holloway—one of the fashion world’s most successful photographers—is thrilled to be reunited with her beloved stepmother. A widow now, Nuala Moore is equally delighted to see her long-lost stepdaughter, and she invites Maggie to spend a few weeks at her home in Newport, Rhode Island. But when Maggie arrives, she finds Nuala murdered, apparently by a burglar.

Heartbroken, Maggie is stunned to learn she had inherited Nuala’s stunning Victorian home...and horrified when she begins to suspect that Nuala’s death was not random but part of a diabolical plot conceived by a twisted mind. When Nuala’s dear old friend, Greta Shipley, dies suddenly of supposedly natural causes, Maggie is convinced that there is a link between these two and other recent deaths among the older women of Newport. What she doesn’t realize is that she has now become a target for the killer as well, and that each clue she uncovers brings her closer to an unimaginable fate.


Moonlight Becomes You Friday, September 20th 1
I HATE COCKTAIL PARTIES, MAGGIE THOUGHT WRYLY, wondering why she always felt like an alien when she attended one. Actually I’m being too harsh, she thought. The truth is I hate cocktail parties where the only person I know is my supposed date, and he abandons me the minute we come in the door.

She looked around the large room, then sighed. When Liam Moore Payne had invited her to this reunion of the Moore clan, she should have guessed he would be more interested in visiting with his cousins-by-the-dozens than worrying about her. Liam, an occasional but normally thoughtful date when he was in town from Boston, was tonight displaying a boundless faith in her ability to fend for herself. Well, she reasoned, it was a large gathering; surely she could find someone to talk to.

It was what Liam had told her about the Moores that had been the factor that made her decide to accompany him to this affair, she remembered, as she sipped from her glass of white wine and maneuvered her way through the crowded Grill Room of the Four Seasons restaurant on Manhattan’s East Fifty-second Street. The family’s founding father—or at least the founder of the family’s original wealth—had been the late Squire Desmond Moore, at one time a fixture of Newport society. The occasion of tonight’s party/reunion was to celebrate the great man’s one hundred fifteenth birthday. For convenience’s sake, it had been decided to have the gathering in New York rather than Newport.

Going into amusing detail about many members of the clan, Liam had explained that over one hundred descendants, direct and collateral, as well as some favored ex-in-laws, would be present. He had regaled her with anecdotes about the fifteen-year-old immigrant from Dingle who had considered himself to be not one of the huddled masses yearning to be free but, rather, one of the impoverished masses yearning to be rich. Legend claimed that as his ship passed the Statue of Liberty, Squire had announced to his fellow steerage-class passengers, “In no time a-tall I’ll be wealthy enough to buy the old girl, should the government ever decide to sell her, of course.” Liam had delivered his forebear’s declaration in a wonderfully broad Irish brogue.

The Moores certainly did come in all sizes and shapes, Maggie reflected as she looked about the room. She watched two octogenarians in animated conversation, and narrowed her eyes, mentally framing them through the lens of the camera she now wished she had brought. The snow white hair of the man, the coquettish smile on the woman’s face, the pleasure they were obviously taking in each other’s company—it would have made a wonderful picture.

“The Four Seasons will never be the same after the Moores are finished with it,” Liam said as he appeared suddenly beside her. “Having a good time?” he asked, but then without waiting for an answer, introduced her to yet another cousin, Earl Bateman, who, Maggie was amused to note, studied her with obvious and unhurried interest.

She judged the newcomer to be, like Liam, in his late thirties. He was half a head shorter than his cousin, which made him just under six feet. She decided there was something of a scholarly bent reflected in his lean face and thoughtful expression, although his pale blue eyes had a vaguely disconcerting cast to them. Sandy haired with a sallow complexion, he did not have Liam’s rugged good looks. Liam’s eyes were more green than blue, his dark hair attractively flecked with gray.

She waited while he continued to look her over. Then, after a long moment, with a raised eyebrow, she asked, “Will I pass inspection?”

He looked embarrassed. “I’m sorry. I’m not good at remembering names and I was trying to place you. You are one of the clan, aren’t you?”

“No. I have Irish roots going back three or four generations, but I’m no relation to this clan, I’m afraid. It doesn’t look as though you need any more cousins anyhow.”

“You couldn’t be more right about that. Too bad, though, most of them aren’t nearly so attractive as you. Your wonderful blue eyes, ivory skin and small bones make you a Celt. The near-black hair places you among the ‘Black Irish’ segment of the family, those members who owe some of their genetic makeup to the brief but significant visit from survivors of the defeat of the Spanish Armada.”

“Liam! Earl! Oh, for the love of God, I guess I’m glad I came after all.”

Forgetting Maggie, both men turned to enthusiastically greet the florid-faced man who came up behind them.

Maggie shrugged. So much for that, she thought, mentally retreating into a corner. Then she remembered an article she had recently read that urged people who felt isolated in social situations to look for someone else who seemed to be even more desperate and start a conversation.

Chuckling to herself, she decided to give that tactic a try, then if she ended up still talking to herself she would slip away and go home. At that moment, the prospect of her pleasant apartment on Fifty-sixth Street near the East River was very attractive. She knew she should have stayed in tonight. She’d only been back a few days from a photo shoot in Milan and longed for a quiet evening with her feet up.

She glanced around. There didn’t seem to be a single Squire Moore descendant or in-law who wasn’t fighting to be heard.

Countdown to exit, she decided. Then she heard a voice nearby—a melodic, familiar voice, one that spurred sudden, pleasant memories. She spun around. The voice belonged to a woman who was ascending the short staircase to the restaurant’s balcony area and had stopped to call to someone below her. Maggie stared, then gasped. Was she crazy? Could it possibly be Nuala? It had been so long ago, yet she sounded just like the woman who once had been her stepmother, from the time she was five until she was ten. After the divorce, her father had forbidden Maggie to even mention Nuala’s name.

Maggie noticed Liam passing on his way to hail another relative and grabbed his arm. “Liam, that woman on the stairs. Do you know her?”

He squinted. “Oh, that’s Nuala. She was married to my uncle. I mean I guess she’s my aunt, but she was his second wife, so I never thought of her that way. She’s a bit of a character but a lot of fun. Why?”

Maggie did not wait to answer but began to thread her way through the clusters of Moores. By the time she reached the stairs, the woman she sought was chatting with a group of people on the balcony level. Maggie started up the stairs but near the top paused to study her.

When Nuala had left, so abruptly, Maggie had prayed that she would write. She never did, though, and Maggie had found her silence especially painful. She had come to feel so close to her during the five years the marriage had lasted. Her own mother had died in an automobile accident when she was an infant. It was only after her father’s death that Maggie learned from a family friend that her father had destroyed all the letters and returned the gifts that Nuala had sent to her.

Maggie stared now at the tiny figure with lively blue eyes and soft honey-blond hair. She could see the fine skein of wrinkles that detracted not a bit from her lovely complexion. And as she stared, the memories flooded her heart. Childhood memories, perhaps her happiest.

Nuala, who always took her part in arguments, protesting to Maggie’s father, “Owen, for the love of heaven, she’s just a child. Stop correcting her every minute.” Nuala, who was always saying, “Owen, all the kids her age wear jeans and tee shirts. . . . Owen, so what if she used up three rolls of film? She loves to take pictures, and she’s good. . . . Owen, she’s not just playing in mud. Can’t you see she’s trying to make something out of the clay. For heaven’s sake, recognize your daughter’s creativity even if you don’t like my paintings.”

Nuala—always so pretty, always such fun, always so patient with Maggie’s questions. It had been from Nuala that Maggie had learned to love and understand art.

Typically, Nuala was dressed tonight in a pale blue satin cocktail suit and matching high heels. Maggie’s memories of her were always pastel tinted.

Nuala had been in her late forties when she married Dad, Maggie thought, trying to calculate her age now. She made it through five years with him. She left twenty-two years ago.

It was a shock to realize that Nuala must now be in her mid-seventies. She certainly didn’t look it.

Their eyes met. Nuala frowned, then looked puzzled.

Nuala had told her that her name was actually Finnuala, after the legendary Celt, Finn MacCool, who brought about the downfall of a giant. Maggie remembered how as a little girl she had delighted in trying to pronounce Finn-u-ala.

“Finn-u-ala?” she said now, her voice tentative.

A look of total astonishment crossed the older woman’s face. Then she emitted a whoop of delight that stopped the buzz of conversations around them, and Maggie found herself once again enfolded in loving arms. Nuala was wearing the faint scent that all these years had lingered in Maggie’s memory. When she was eighteen she had discovered the scent was Joy. How appropriate for tonight, Maggie thought.

“Let me look at you,” Nuala exclaimed, releasing her and stepping back but still holding Maggie’s arms with both hands as though afraid she would get away.

Her eyes searched Maggie’s face. “I never thought I’d see you again! Oh, Maggie! How is that dreadful man, your father?”

“He died three years ago.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, darling. But he was totally impossible to the end, I’m sure.”

“Never too easy,” Maggie admitted.

“Darling, I was married to him. Remember? I know what he was like! Always sanctimonious, dour, sour, petulant, crabby. Well, no use going on about it. The poor man is dead, may he rest in peace. But he was so old-fashioned and so stiff, why, he could have posed for a medieval stained-glass window . . .”

Aware suddenly that others were openly listening, Nuala slid her arm around Maggie’s waist and announced, “This is my child! I didn’t give birth to her, of course, but that’s totally unimportant.”

Maggie realized that Nuala was also blinking back tears.

Anxious both to talk and to escape the crush of the crowded restaurant, they slipped out together. Maggie could not find Liam to say good-bye but was fairly sure she would not be missed.

* * *

Arm in arm, Maggie and Nuala walked up Park Avenue through the deepening September twilight, turned west at Fifty-sixth Street and settled in at Il Tinello. Over Chianti and delicate strips of fried zucchini, they caught up on each other’s lives.

For Maggie, it was simple. “Boarding school; I was shipped there after you left. Then Carnegie-Mellon, and finally a master’s in visual arts from NYU. I’m making a good living now as a photographer.”

“That’s wonderful. I always thought it would be either that or sculpting.”

Maggie smiled. “You’ve got a good memory. I love to sculpt, but I do it only as a hobby. Being a photographer is a lot more practical, and in all honesty I guess I’m pretty good. I’ve got some excellent clients. Now what about you, Nuala?”

“No. Let’s finish with you,” the older woman interrupted. “You live in New York. You’ve got a job you like. You’ve stuck to developing what is a natural talent. You’re just as pretty as I knew you’d be. You were thirty-two your last birthday. What about a love interest or significant other or whatever you young people call it these days?”

Maggie felt the familiar wrench as she said flatly, “I was married for three years. His name was Paul, and he graduated from the Air Force Academy. He had just been selected for the NASA program when he was killed on a training flight. That was five years ago. It’s a shock I guess I may never get over. Anyway, it’s still hard to talk about him.”

“Oh, Maggie.”

There was a world of understanding in Nuala’s voice. Maggie remembered that her stepmother had been a widow when she married her father.

Shaking her head, Nuala murmured, “Why do things like that have to happen?” Then her tone brightened. “Shall we order?”

Over dinner they caught up on twenty-two years. After the divorce from Maggie’s father, Nuala had moved to New York, then visited Newport, where she met Timothy Moore—someone she actually had dated when she was still a teenager—and married him. “My third and last husband,” she said, “and absolutely wonderful. Tim died last year, and do I ever miss him! He wasn’t one of the wealthy Moores, but I have a sweet house in a wonderful section of Newport, and an adequate income, and of course I’m still dabbling at painting. So I’m all right.”

But Maggie saw a brief flicker of uncertainty cross Nuala’s face and realized in that moment that without the brisk, cheerful expression, Nuala looked every day of her age.

“Really all right, Nuala?” she asked quietly. “You seem . . . worried.”

“Oh, yes, I’m fine. It’s just . . . Well, you see, I turned seventy-five last month. Years ago, someone told me that when you get into your sixties, you start to say good-bye to your friends, or they say good-bye to you, but that when you hit your seventies, it happens all the time. Believe me, it’s true. I’ve lost a number of good friends lately, and each loss hurts a little more than the last. It’s getting to be a bit lonely in Newport, but there’s a wonderful residence—I hate the word nursing home—and I’m thinking of going to live there soon. The kind of apartment I want there has just become available.”

Then, as the waiter poured espresso, she said urgently, “Maggie, come visit me, please. It’s only a three-hour drive from New York.”

“I’d love to,” Maggie responded.

“You mean it?”

“Absolutely. Now that I’ve found you, I’m not going to let you get away again. Besides, it’s always been in the back of my mind to go to Newport. I understand it’s a photographer’s paradise. As a matter of fact—”

She was about to tell Nuala that as of next week she had cleared her calendar to allow time to take a much-needed vacation when she heard someone say, “I thought I’d find you here.”

Startled, Maggie looked up. Standing over them were Liam and his cousin Earl Bateman. “You ran out on me,” Liam said reprovingly.

Earl bent down to kiss Nuala. “You’re in hot water for spiriting away his date. How do you two know each other?”

“It’s a long story.” Nuala smiled. “Earl lives in Newport, too,” she explained to Maggie. “He teaches anthropology at Hutchinson College in Providence.”

I was right about the scholarly look, Maggie thought.

Liam pulled a chair from a nearby table and sat down. “You’ve got to let us have an after-dinner drink with you.” He smiled at Earl. “And don’t worry about Earl. He’s strange, but he’s harmless. His branch of the family has been in the funeral business for more than a hundred years. They bury people. He digs them up! He’s a ghoul. He even makes money talking about it.”

Maggie raised her eyebrows as the others laughed.

“I lecture on funeral customs through the ages,” Earl Bateman explained with a slight smile. “Some may find it macabre, but I love it.”

About The Author

Photograph © Bernard Vidal

The #1 New York Times bestselling author Mary Higgins Clark wrote over forty suspense novels, four collections of short stories, a his­torical novel, a memoir, and two children’s books. With bestselling author Alafair Burke she wrote the Under Suspicion series including The Cinderella MurderAll Dressed in WhiteThe Sleeping Beauty KillerEvery Breath You TakeYou Don’t Own Me, and Piece of My Heart. With her daughter Carol Higgins Clark, she coauthored five suspense novels. More than one hundred million copies of her books are in print in the United States alone. Her books are international bestsellers.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (April 9, 2024)
  • Length: 384 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781668026212

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