I Heard That Song Before

A Novel

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About The Book

In a riveting psychological thriller, Mary Higgins Clark takes the reader deep into the mysteries of the human mind, where memories may be the most dangerous things of all.

At the center of her novel is Kay Lansing, who has grown up in Englewood, New Jersey, daughter of the landscaper to the wealthy and powerful Carrington family. Their mansion -- a historic seventeenth-century manor house transported stone by stone from Wales in 1848 -- has a hidden chapel. One day, accompanying her father to work, six-year-old Kay succumbs to curiosity and sneaks into the chapel. There, she overhears a quarrel between a man and a woman who is demanding money from him. When she says that this will be the last time, his caustic response is: "I heard that song before."

That same evening, the Carringtons hold a formal dinner dance after which Peter Carrington, a student at Princeton, drives home Susan Althorp, the eighteen-year-old daughter of neighbors. While her parents hear her come in, she is not in her room the next morning and is never seen or heard from again.

Throughout the years, a cloud of suspicion hangs over Peter Carrington. At age forty-two, head of the family business empire, he is still "a person of interest" in the eyes of the police, not only for Susan Althorp's disappearance but also for the subsequent drowning death of his own pregnant wife in their swimming pool.

Kay Lansing, now living in New York and working as a librarian in Englewood, goes to see Peter Carrington to ask for permission to hold a cocktail party on his estate to benefit a literacy program, which he later grants. Kay comes to see Peter as maligned and misunderstood, and when he begins to court her after the cocktail party, she falls in love with him. Over the objections of her beloved grandmother Margaret O'Neil, who raised her after her parents' early deaths, she marries him. To her dismay, she soon finds that he is a sleepwalker whose nocturnal wanderings draw him to the spot at the pool where his wife met her end.

Susan Althorp's mother, Gladys, has always been convinced that Peter Carrington is responsible for her daughter's disappearance, a belief shared by many in the community. Disregarding her husband's protests about reopening the case, Gladys, now terminally ill, has hired a retired New York City detective to try to find out what happened to her daughter. Gladys wants to know before she dies.

Kay, too, has developed gnawing doubts about her husband. She believes that the key to the truth about his guilt or innocence lies in the scene she witnessed as a child in the chapel and knows she must learn the identity of the man and woman who quarreled there that day. Yet, she plunges into this pursuit realizing that "that knowledge may not be enough to save my husband's life, if indeed it deserves to be saved." What Kay does not even remotely suspect is that uncovering what lies behind these memories may cost her her own life.

I Heard That Song Before once again dramatically reconfirms Mary Higgins Clark's worldwide reputation as a master storyteller.

Reading Group Guide

I Heard That Song Before by Mary Higgins Clark
Discussion Questions
1. "It may be that I've set my standards too high, but ever since I was young, I've been into the classic love stories of the Brontë sisters" (page 29). Discuss any similarities between Kay's story and the stories of the Brontë sisters.
2. The novel alternates between Kay's first-person narration and the third-person omniscient narrator. What did you like or dislike about this format?
3. When Kay finds Peter sleepwalking from the pool, she asks herself, "why, in that altered state, did he go through the motions of trying to push something into the pool or pull something from it?" (page 50). What is the answer to Kay's question?
4. Of the following quotes, which, if any, do you feel is the main theme of the novel:
• "There are none so blind as those who will not see" (page 153).
• "Money! That's the cause of most crimes, isn't it? Love or money"(page 220).
• "But even when you're crazy about someone, at some point you can have enough" (page 289).
5. "But to anticipate something, and then to see it actually take place, is the difference between nightmare and reality" (page 99). Is Kay brave or naïve for standing by her man? Explain your answer.
6. The Carrington mansion itself is an important part of this story. What is its role and what does the house symbolize?
7. "I never forget the fact that I am their employee, but I am also, I hope, a trusted friend" (page 54). In this novel, the author examines the relationships between employers and their staff. Why is this significant to the plot?
8. Mary Higgins Clark has said: "I often will base my books on a crime. I will take a piece of a crime and go with it." Do you know of any sleepwalking crime cases? If so, how did the outcome of the real-life case compare to this fictional crime?
9. "I knew with certainty that the remains the dogs had dug up had been flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone" (page 147). Discuss how the author uses family in this novel -- from Kay's relationship with her grandmother and the loss of her parents to Peter's role with his stepfamily to the dynamics within the families of the secondary characters. How do these relationships propel the story forward and help to create a murder mystery?
10. Mary Higgins Clark has been called the "Queen of Suspense." What part of I Heard That Song Before stands out in your mind as a great element of suspense?
11. Which character said?:
• "I've had other nightmares, and maybe they really happened..." (answer on page 95).
• "I had a new life, but some part of me didn't want to completely cut off so much of my old life" (answer on page 139).
• "Sleepwalking in this country is no defense" (answer on page 161).
• "It's so fascinating to be around people like the Carringtons" (answer on page 241).
• "A 'brown study' is defined as a deep, serious absorption in thought" (answer on page 251).
• "Don't you come here and try to scare me. I know the law" (answer on page 281).
• "It's you and me against the world -- including the whole damn bunch of Carringtons" (answer on page 289).
• "I believe that there has been a terrible miscarriage of justice, and I share responsibility for it" (answer on page 294).
Reader's Tips
Snoop Around: The author refers to Charles Lindbergh as once being the most famous resident of Englewood, NJ. Have your book-club members research who is Englewood's most famous resident today.
Go to the Big House: The Carrington House is a fictional mansion but there are plenty of historic mansions open to the public. Find one near you at www.hgtv.com/hgtv/ah_travel_landmarks and treat your book-club members to a tour of luxury.
Shhh!: Host your book-club meeting at a public library. Find one near you at www.publiclibraries.com. If you live in the New York City area, go to Kay's library: www.englewoodlibrary.org. If the library accepts donations, collect unwanted books from your group and donate them.

About The Author

Photograph © Bernard Vidal

The #1 New York Times bestselling author Mary Higgins Clark has written thirty-seven suspense novels, four collections of short stories, a historical novel, a memoir, and two children’s books. With her daughter Carol Higgins Clark, she has coauthored five more suspense novels, and also wrote The Cinderella Murder, All Dressed in White, The Sleeping Beauty Killer, and Every Breath You Take with bestselling author Alafair Burke. 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: Pocket Books (February 2008)
  • Length: 416 pages
  • ISBN13: 9780743497305

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