Deck the Halls - Carol Higgins Clark, Mary Higgins Clark I have enjoyed Mary Higgins Clark's other books and with Christmas just around the corner, this seemed to be a good pick.

Plot:
Regan Reilly, a private investigator in California, is the daughter of funeral director, Luke Reilly, and famous mystery writer, Nora Reilly. Alvirah Meehan, an amateur detective, was a former cleaning lady and a winner of the lottery. When someone looking for 1 million dollars decides to kidnap Luke and his chauffeur, Rosita, these two women must brace the impending windstorm and rescue them--before the boat they are kept on sinks.

Good:
Lacking in more quantities than I have hair follicles (and people are always complementing me on my thick hair), this book is none-the-less fast-paced and funny (although most of the times inadvertently). The last 100 pages of this slim read whip by--and that isn't just because the writing is about as challenging as a Boxcar children book. There is a lot of action and intense sequences. And while most of the humor made my eyes roll instead of my belly laugh, sometimes a clever joke would crop up and smile creep across my face.

Bad:
I can not believe that someone of Mary Higgins Clark's caliper wrote this! This is so disgusting that I wanted to "Deck" someone's Halls!
1. WRITING STYLE:
* Number 1 bad thing missing from this "mystery" is: subtlety. It was Mary Higgins Clark's trademark in previous books. Instead, the audience is whacked vehemently over the head with a Christmas tree (or a bell or a Christmas tree ornament) whenever a point is to be made. C.B. is a bad guy...he acts strange around his uncle's body. Whack! Jack is going to be Regan's woman...Nora gushes about how much her husband would love her future son-in-law. Whack! Fred is a great guy...and doesn't mind watching the children of a woman he has dated all of two times. Whack! Rosita likes Fred--she's always calling herself "Cinderella". Whack! The bad guys relate their entire scheme--who, what, when, where, and why--to their kidnapees. Whack! Whack! Whack! I just wished that I had a wall to hit into. Or a quarter for every time I rolled my eyes. I'd never have to work again!
* Characters are introduced in the same way each time: with a paragraph or ten describing every aspect of the character. I mean, here's the first paragraph of Jack Reilly's introduction: "Jack Reilly had sandy hair that tended to curl, hazel eyes more green than brown even features with a strong jaw and a broad-shouldered, six-foot-two body. Keenly intelligent, quick-witted, and with a sharp sense of humor honed by growing up in a large family, he had undeniable charisma. Both at social gatherings and at work, his laid-back presence somehow filled the room..." This was good--when I was ten and reading The Babysitters' Club. But mature writers know the real secret to good novels: show your audience *Fill in the blank*, don't tell.
2. CHARACTERS: I should say actually "Caricatures". Not one character in this book could be described with more than one (okay, maybe two words). I'll prove it.
Regan: attractive, smart
Nora: helpless
Luke: brave
Rosita: mom
Jack: cop
Fred: prince
Alvirah: annoying (okay, "detective")
Petey: stupid
C.B.: criminal "mastermind"
Let's start at the top. Regan has about as much personality as a cheese slice wrapper. For someone supposedly smart and a private investigator, she doesn't do a whole lot of smart things or even investigating. She'd rather think about romancing the man she met ten seconds ago and leave the investigating to someone else. Nora shouldn't have even been included--her little "Luke would like my future son-in-law" bit was inappropriate and stupid. Luke is flatter than pancakes. Rosita calls herself "Cinderella" to a man she barely knows? Yeah, right. Jack is said to be oh, so many things (charismatic)--but I never saw him act that way. Fred has no problem staying with two kids he barely knows--he only dated their mother twice!--over going to a party. Yeah, right. And what kids would be okay with a guy they probably have met all of one time? Not me! Alvirah is like an annoying, know-it-all, irritating version of Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and every other child's mystery story hero. She pops in and starts bragging about all the cases she's solved and acting like she owns the world. I don't see how anyone could stand her--she drove me nuts from her cheesy back story to her stupid "sunburst pin" cassette tape (that must be one heck of a small cassette--or one heck of a big pin!). And the bad guys are complete doofuses, which leads me to...
3. PLOT: The audience knows from the moment they are introduced to The Bad Guys (which is on page 10) that there is no way in hell that Luke and Rosita will not make it out in time for Christmas. These guys are so dumb. Petey talks like a child. C.B. is so smart...all his ideas came out of the latest Sue Grafton or James Patterson novel! Whoopee! Not to mention that there really isn't any mystery. We meet The Bad Guys 10 pages into the book and are robbed of the only other means of asserting a mystery in this horrific holiday hoax--if The Bad Guys get away. However, all the "Will *fill-in-the-blank* be home for Christmas?" remarks are a dead give-away that the end will be another "happily, ever after". Lastly, the romantic element is cheesy, corny, and stupid. Fred wants to stick around Rosita after two dates and taking care of her kids for two days? Regan falls for Jack after two days during which her dad is kidnapped? I mean, come on.

Dialogue/Sexual Situations/Violence:
Mild. Sparse usage of da** and other foul language. Hugh Hefner is brought up. Men hold guns.

Overall:
I cannot believe I would not like a Mary Higgins Clark book. Throughout the entire time I read this, I felt like I had read better books when I was 10. If you get this for Christmas, give whoever sent it to you a bag of coal, even if they do get the better end of the deal.