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#21: All the old familiar places

In I'll Be Seeing You (abridged audiobook), young reporter Meghan Collins is reeling from the recent death of her father in a bridge accident; the insurance company is balking at a payout due to the lack of a body.  One night, she's at a local hospital covering a story when an ambulance delivers a casualty of an apparent mugging: a dead woman who's Meghan's mirror image.  Later than night, the shaken reporter receives on her personal fax line a scrawled anonymous message claiming that the dead woman was a "mistake," which is hardly reassuring if it were ever meant to be such.  Puzzled and unnerved, Meghan investigates, leading her to a fertility clinic that's been a bit cavalier with its donations, and, no, you don't know where this story is going.

That's kind of the problem.  I mean, you're at the morgue, and your own body comes in.  That's a great hook, isn't it?  It makes the audience expect something fantastic in follow-up, particularly when the fertility clinic material is introduced.  Whatever solutions you're entertaining in your head, though, are probably more captivating than the one Clark serves up, which is both aggressively mundane and needlessly complicated.  An additional aggravation is that Meghan's sleuthing really doesn't have any bearing on the plot.  I don't mean that she's incompetent; it's just that her investigations, while logical and fairly methodical, just don't happen to turn up anything actually connected to what's going on.  (She's also, despite that initial worrying fax, in very little danger throughout the main narrative, which is kind of disappointing for a thriller.)  The ending is an unsatisfying Just a Bunch of Stuff That Happened that I doubt I could explain if asked, so uninspiring and tangental were its players.

Another issue comes with the audiobook's reader, Ellen Parker, a screen actress who puts more effort into her performance than many readers I've heard and whose voice carries a great deal of empathy.  She seems incapable of getting mad, though, and there's a great deal of stuff in this narrative at which the heroine (and others) should be mad.  Parker instead affects a "heartbroken" stance, which doesn't really work.  She's a good narrator in other aspects, but I'd like to hear her in a book better suited to her talent.

Also: everyone has to be aggressively, over-the-top stereotypical.  The love interest isn't just a good prospect with a fine heart; he's a Yale geneticist who's raising his adorable young son (plus his faithful golden retriever) on his own after his faithless first wife deserted him for a lounge-singing career.  The heroine's mother isn't just in a bit of financial difficulty following her husband's death; she's in danger of losing the Kinkadesque B&B her plucky ol' Irish dad who came over to Ellis Island with nothing but a pair of boxers built from its very foundation.  The attempts at emotional manipulation are a bit overwhelming and kind of patience-trying.

Clark has that compulsive readability (listenability?) that marks competent thriller authors, and since this audiobook was abridged, perhaps it's not faring well in the editing.  I was disappointed by the plot's haphazardness and waste of a good premise, though.

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