Fans of Mary Higgins Clark and cozy mysteries will relish this Christmas confection. Unlike her previous holiday novel, Silent Night, All Through the Night is virtually free of life-and-death crime. Rather, it is a Dickensian tale of good deeds rewarded and crimes punished.
The wintry story begins on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with 18-year-old Sondra Lewis, an aspiring violinist, tearfully leaving her baby on the steps of St. Clement's Church. Unbeknownst to her, Lenny Centino is robbing that same church on the same night, with his attention particularly on the Church's diamond inlaid chalice. He finds a buggy outside the church and uses it for cover as he flees. Only later does he realize that his take for the night includes the infant Stellina (Italian for star). The narrative then abruptly moves ahead seven years. Clark's lottery-winning protagonists, Alvirah and her husband Willy (introduced in Weep No More, My Lady) return for some amateur sleuthing. Sister Cordelia's thrift shop doubles as an after-school recreation place for neighborhood children (including a shy little girl named Star), but the building has been condemned. Bessie Maher had vowed she was leaving the house to the nun and her children. Now that she is gone, the will indicates that the tenants of the house, Vic and Linda Baker, are the true heirs. As December rushes on towards Christmas, Alvirah struggles to put things right before the children are left in the cold.
Like the best holiday stories, All Through the Night steers toward sentimentality, but it veers back on course with narrative wit and Alvirah's charm. Clark's prose is lean and her plotting is brisk. This is a mystery that would be a pleasure to share aloud with a family gathered at the fireplace for some holiday cheer.