MacDonald, Patricia J. 1949-
MacDONALD, Patricia J. 1949-
PERSONAL: Born 1949; married; children: one daughter.
AWARDS, HONORS: Deauville Film Festival literary prize, 1997, for Secret Admirer; Edgar Allan Poe Award nomination, Mystery Writers of America, for The Unforgiven.
MYSTERY AND SUSPENSE NOVELS
The Unforgiven, Dell (New York, NY), 1981.
Stranger in the House, Dell (New York, NY), 1983.
Little Sister, Dell (New York, NY), 1986.
No Way Home, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 1989.
Mother's Day, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1994.
Secret Admirer, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1995.
Lost Innocents, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1998.
Not Guilty, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Suspicious Origin, Atria Books (New York, NY), 2003.
The Girl Next Door, Atria Books (New York, NY), 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: Mystery and suspense novelist Patricia J. MacDonald is a "master of the small-town tragedy," commented reviewer Mary Frances Wilkens in Booklist. Her novels concentrate on family lives in small-town and rural domestic settings that unravel in devastating, often horrific ways.
It takes only a moment for tragedy to befall the Lange family in MacDonald's Stranger in the House. While Anna Lange is outside with her young son, Paul, her ailing daughter, Tracy, calls out to her from inside the house. Anna leaves Paul alone only briefly, but when she comes back outside, Paul is gone. After eleven years, Anna still believes Paul is alive, although her husband, Tom, and Tracy lost hope long ago. The family suffered deeply after the disappearance, and there seems little hope that destroyed relationships can be repaired. When police detective Buddy Ferrano tells the family that Paul has been found in West Virginia, hope revives. Paul had been raised by Albert and Dorothy Rambo, but after Dorothy's death, Albert fled from the law with a possibly dangerous agenda. The Langes must face the truth of Paul's disappearance, the reunification with a child and sibling long thought dead, and the profound effect of Paul's return on their family setting. McDonald "delivers a strong novel that readers will welcome," noted Harriet Klausner on the Allreaders.com Web site.
Mother's Day is "a gripping thriller that's bursting with suspense and drama," commented Booklist reviewer Emily Morton. Karen and Greg Newhall's beautiful young daughter, adopted thirteen years ago, is entering a happy adolescence, but the family's peaceful life is jolted by the abrupt return of Linda Emery, the girl's biological mother. Emery had disappeared years ago and was given up for dead. The initial distress that her mysterious reappearance evokes turns to happiness and then tragedy and turmoil when she is murdered. The novel's suspenseful plot keeps readers "turning pages until the satisfying if predictable ending," Melton commented.
A combination of murder mystery and romance, Secret Admirer tells the story of Laura Reed, who lives a quiet life in a small seacoast town with her husband, Jimmy, and their young son, Michael. When Jimmy is killed in the night, Laura tells police that an intruder knocked her unconscious and committed the murder, but the police are dubious. Soon she realizes that she is a suspect. As Laura kindles a healing relationship with sailor Ian Hunter, who lost his wife and son tragically, new evidence surfaces that strongly ties her to Jimmy's murder. She is arrested, and with no one to rely on but herself, she begins the process of proving her innocence and finding Jimmy's real murderer. A Publishers Weekly reviewer commented on the book's "shamelessly contrived plot and barely believable characters," but concluded that MacDonald "keeps her readers guessing until a conclusion that may make the preceding worth wading through." Melton, in another Booklist review, called the story "riveting and relentless" and commented that "the taut-as-a-bowstring suspense will keep readers' minds firmly on what happens next."
In Not Guilty MacDonald "plunges her heroine, Keely Bennett, into a nightmarish ride through domestic bliss gone bad," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Fourteen years after her husband Richard's self-inflicted death, Keely's life seems to be getting back to normal. A stable marriage to Richard's childhood friend Mark Weaver and a new baby girl help her find domestic bliss. One problem is that her son, Dylan, found cowering near his father's lifeless body years before, has become a difficult and troubled teen. When Mark is killed, suspicion falls on Dylan as the culprit. Vengeful assistant district attorney Maureen Chase—Mark's former fiancée and the woman he left for Keely—becomes particularly interested in pinning a murder rap on Dylan. Despite the tragedies, and even as evidence mounts against Dylan, Keely struggles to protect her son and find the real murderer. Wilkens, in another review for Booklist, called the book "a tight, compelling thriller about how a woman who's come undone can muster the power to fight." Although some critics noted that the novel's coincidences weaken the story, a Kirkus Reviews critic commented that "readers hooked by Keely's all-too-believable sense of home-grown paranoia will be more than happy to see her rescued at any price."
When former physician Duncan Avery is released after fifteen years in prison for the stabbing death of his wife, he struggles to reconnect with his family and to establish his innocence in The Girl Next Door. Although his sons, Patrick and Jimmy, are still bitterly disposed toward him, his daughter, Nina, seems willing to reconcile—even at the height of the scandal, Nina did not believe her father was guilty. As the family's relationships are once again shaken to their foundations, Nina helps her father reestablish his life and works to help him clear his name, despite any effect it has on her budding acting career and her relationship with her brothers. A Kirkus Reviews critic commented that MacDonald "introduces a healthy balance of introspection and interaction into her tale of deeply unhealthy family dynamics." Bookreporter.com reviewer Maggie Harding called The Girl Next Door "a deftly written thriller that will keep you reading well past your bedtime, as you try to unravel the carefully crafted clues that pepper the pages."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, January 15, 1994, Emily Melton, review of Mother's Day, p. 876; June 1, 1995, Emily Melton, review of Secret Admirer, p. 1684; February 15, 2002, Mary Frances Wilkens, review of Not Guilty, p. 970; July, 2004, Mary Frances Wilkens, review of The Girl Next Door, p. 1824.
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2002, review of Not Guilty, p. 131; March 1, 2003, review of Suspicious Origin, p. 338; June 1, 2004, review of The Girl Next Door, p. 520.
Kliatt, March, 2004, Sherri Ginsberg, review of Suspicious Origin, p. 56.
Publishers Weekly, February 14, 1994, review of Mother's Day, p. 80; June 19, 1995, review of Secret Admirer, p. 52; May 18, 1998, review of Lost Innocents, p. 70; March 25, 2002, review of Not Guilty, p. 44; March 10, 2003, review of Suspicious Origin, p. 57.
AllReaders.com, http://www.allreaders.com/ (April 12, 2005), Harriet Klausner, reviews of Stranger in the House, Not Guilty, Suspicious Origin, and The Girl Next Door.
Bookreporter.com, http://www.bookreporter.com/ (April 12, 2005), Maggie Harding, review of The Girl Next Door.
Stop, You're Killing Me Web site, http://www.stopyourekillingme.com/ (April 12, 2005), "Patricia MacDonald."