Saturday, December 16, 2023

It's a Good Thing the Crooks Are Not Very Smart in The Christmas Thief

Scott D. Parker

Gather ‘round kids and let me tell about something we had back in the day. Here in Houston, there was a store that let you rent audiobooks just like Blockbuster. T’was a great store, especially in the days before digital audiobooks are everywhere.

One of the books I listened to decades ago was The Christmas Thief by Mary Higgins Clark and her daughter, Carol Higgins Clark. What I didn’t know then was that this was the second Christmas novel that Mary and Carol wrote together. What made these books special—other than the mother/daughter relationship—was the crossover aspect of the stories.

One of Mary’s series featured lottery winner, Alvirah Meehan, and her husband Willy. She cleaned houses in New York while Willy was a plumber. They starred in four standalone novels before the four Christmas novels.

On Carol’s side, there was Reagan Reilly, a private investigator. In the first book, Deck the Halls, Reagan meets Alvirah at a dentist’s office and quickly get wrapped up in the kidnapping of Reagan’s dad and his driver.

Here in The Christmas Thief, all the characters are friends now, and they are planning a trip to Stowe, Vermont. Alvirah and Willy want to see the maple tree their lawyers bought for them—what do you buy lottery winners for Christmas—and they bring along Opal. She’s a fellow lottery winner who ran into some bad luck. Twelve years ago, Opal invested her lottery winnings with Packy Noonan, a guy who swindled Opal and other senior citizens out of their money.

Packy’s done his time and now he’s getting out of prison with a single-minded goal: travel up to Stowe and retrieve a flask full of uncut diamonds worth over $70 million and escape to Brazil.

Here’s the catch: unbeknownst to Packy, “his” tree has actually been selected to be used as the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. Now, the con has to figure out how to get his diamonds without anybody the wiser. That proves harder than he bargained for when all the characters show up in Stowe.

Carol Higgins Clark narrates the audiobook which I was able to find after extensive searching. She does a good job with the different New England accents. The story itself would make a fun TV movie. There’s not a lot of peril and some of Packy’s cohorts are just not that smart. I have to admit that I “cast” a certain actor as Packy as I listened to this book. He’s one of the Wet Bandits from Home Alone, and having this actor in mind made the story even better.

I’m always on the lookout for Christmas stories and now I’ve read two of the four books by Mary and Carol. I love crossovers and now I think I’ll try some of the non-Christmas books by these two gifted storytellers.

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