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Trouble in paradise.
on July 23, 2005
Mary Jane Clark's latest thriller, "Dancing in the Dark," follows the same formula that has earned her a devoted following for years. She picks an interesting location; this time, the setting is beautiful Ocean Grove, New Jersey. Ocean Grove is both a mecca for tourists who love water sports and a place of historical interest. Clark's attractive and admirable heroine is Diane Mayfield, a single parent by default. Diane's husband, Phil, is a white collar criminal who is serving time at a federal correctional institution, leaving his wife to play the roles of mother, father, and breadwinner for their two children, Michelle and Anthony.
Diane is forced to cancel a much anticipated family vacation to the Grand Canyon when, Joel, her boss at KEY news, orders her to cover a breaking story at the Jersey shore. A young lady named Leslie Patterson has been found bound and gagged after disappearing for three days. The police are convinced that Leslie staged her own abduction. Joel wants Leslie to prepare a segment on "girls who cry wolf" for her newsmagazine show.
Diane drags her reluctant children to Ocean Grove, and the story she has been sent to follow becomes more and more complicated. Another girl goes missing and is subsequently found dead; there are a whole host of suspects who could be behind the abductions. Among them are a mentally disturbed man, the boyfriend of the two victims, and a harried husband who has been quarreling more and more with his wife. Red herrings pile up and the reader is kept guessing until Clark comes up with a truly surprising ending.
"Dancing in the Dark" has brief chapters, spare writing, and sharply delineated characters, including an incompetent psychiatrist, a heartbroken real estate agent, and a woman who lives with her children in a tented community known as the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association. Clark nicely integrates Ocean Grove's scenic setting into the narrative, and the story moves along at a fast clip. One of the sad themes of the book is the epidemic of anorexia in Ocean Grove. Young girls are starving and mutilating themselves in an effort to gain control of their lives and their inner pain. Without trivializing this serious issue, Clark shows how difficult it is to treat these young women and what a tremendous toll their illness takes on their helpless families. Another theme is the predatory nature of the media. Whenever and wherever tragedy strikes, the television cameras start rolling. "Dancing in the Dark" is an engrossing story by a talented author who knows how to keep her readers hooked until the final page.