In a novel that reaffirms her reputation as "America's Queen of Suspense," Mary Higgins Clark delivers a gripping tale of deception and tantalizing suspense.
Nicholas Spencer, charismatic head of the medical research company Gen-stone, involved in the development of an anticancer vaccine, suddenly disappears. His private plane crashes en route to Puerto Rico, but his body is not found.
Early results of the vaccine seemed highly promising. Yet, coinciding with Nicholas Spencer's disappearance comes news that the FDA is denying approval. Then follows the shocking revelation that Spencer had looted Gen-stone of huge sums of money -- including the lifetime savings of people who had risked every penny they had.
Marcia "Carley" DeCarlo, the thirty-two-year-old columnist for the Wall Street Weekly, is assigned to cover the story. Carley is the stepsister of Spencer's wife, Lynn, an aggressive PR woman and socialite, whom she dislikes and distrusts.
The day after news of her husband's disappearance rocks the financial and medical world, Lynn attends a meeting of the stockholders of Gen-stone, flaunting expensive clothing and jewelry. Accused of having participated in the scam, she appears indifferent to the anger and despair of the people attending, among them a man whose child has cancer and who is now about to lose his home. That night, she narrowly escapes death when her mansion in Bedford, New York, is set on fire. She turns to Carley, begging her to use her investigative skills to prove that she was not her husband's accomplice.
As Carley proceeds with her investigation, she is confronted by seemingly impenetrable questions: Is Nicholas Spencer dead or in hiding? Was he guilty or set up? Why the sudden reversal in medical opinion of the vaccine from recognition to condemnation? And as the facts begin to unfold, she becomes the target of a dangerous group involved in a sinister and fraudulent scheme.
The Second Time Around is Mary Higgins Clark at her best, telling a story that intertwines fiction with the stuff of real-life headlines in a novel of breathtaking suspense and surprises.
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Simon & Schuster
April 14, 2003
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Excerpt from The Second Time Around by Mary Higgins Clark
The stockholders' meeting, or maybe the stockholders' uprising is a better way to describe the event, took place on April 21 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Manhattan. It was an unseasonably cold and wintry day, but suitably bleak considering the circumstances. The headline two weeks earlier that Nicholas Spencer, president and chief operating officer of Gen-stone had been killed in the crash of his private plane while flying to San Juan had been greeted with genuine and heartfelt grief. His company expected to receive the blessing of the Food and Drug Administration for a vaccine that would both eliminate the possibility of the growth of cancer cells and bring to a halt the progression of the disease in those already afflicted -- a preventive and a cure that he alone was responsible for bringing to the world. He named the company "Gen-stone," a reference to the Rosetta stone that had unveiled the language of ancient Egypt and allowed the appreciation of its remarkable culture.
The headline proclaiming Spencer's disappearance was followed in short order by the announcement from the chairman of the board of Gen-stone that there had been numerous setbacks in the experiments with the vaccine and that it could not be submitted to the FDA for approval in the foreseeable future. The announcement further said that tens of millions of dollars had been looted from the company, apparently by Nicholas Spencer.
I'm Marcia DeCarlo, better known as Carley, and even as I sat in the roped-off media section at the stockholders' meeting, observing the furious or stunned or tearful faces around me, I still had a sense of disbelief in what I was hearing. Apparently Nicholas Spencer, Nick, was a thief and a fraud. The miracle vaccine was nothing more than the offspring of his greedy imagination and consummate salesmanship. He had cheated all these people who had invested so much money in his company, often their life savings or total assets. Of course they hoped to make money, but many believed as well that their investment would help make the vaccine a reality. And not only had investors been hurt, but the theft had made worthless the retirement funds of Gen-stone's employees, over a thousand people. It simply didn't seem possible.
Since Nicholas Spencer's body had not washed ashore along with charred pieces of his doomed plane, half the people in the auditorium didn't believe he was dead. The other half would willingly have driven a stake through his heart if his remains had been discovered.
Charles Wallingford, the chairman of the board of Gen-stone, ashen-faced but with the natural elegance that is achieved by generations of breeding and privilege, struggled to bring the meeting to order. Other members of the board, their expressions somber, sat on the dais with him. To a man they were prominent figures in business and society. In the second row were people I recognized as executives from Gen-stone's accounting firm. Some of them had been interviewed from time to time in Weekly Browser, the syndicated Sunday supplement for which I write a financial column.
Sitting to the right of Wallingford, her face alabaster pale, her blond hair twisted into a French knot, and dressed in a black suit that I'm sure cost a fortune, was Lynn Hamilton Spencer. She is Nick's wife -- or widow -- and, coincidentally my stepsister whom I've met exactly three times and whom I confess I dislike. Let me explain. Two years ago my widowed mother married Lynn's widowed father, having met him in Boca Raton where they lived in neighboring condominiums.