Bestselling master of suspense Mary Higgins Clark returns with another heart-pounding novel, "The Lost Years." Here's an excerpt.
In the hushed quiet as late shadows fell over the walls of the eternal city of Rome, an elderly monk, his shoulders bent, made his silent and unobtrusive way into the Biblioteca Secreta, one of the four rooms that comprised the Vatican Library. The Library contained a total of 2,527 manuscripts written in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. Some were available under strict supervision to be read by outsiders. Others were not.
The most controversial of the manuscripts was the one known as both the Joseph of Arimathea parchment and the Vatican letter. Carried by Peter the Apostle to Rome, it was believed by many to be the only letter ever written by the Christ.
It was a simple letter thanking Joseph for the kindness he had extended from the time Joseph had first heard Him preaching at the Temple in Jerusalem when He was only twelve years old. Joseph had believed He was the long-awaited Messiah.
When King Herod’s son had discovered that this profoundly wise and learned child had been born in Bethlehem, he’d ordered the young Christ’s assassination. Hearing this, Joseph had rushed to Nazareth and received permission from the boy’s parents to take Him to Egypt so that He could be safe and could study at the temple of Leontopolis near the Nile Valley.
The next eighteen years of the life of Jesus Christ are lost to history. Nearing the end of His ministry, foreseeing that the last kindness Joseph would offer Him would be his own tomb for Him to rest in, Christ had written a letter expressing gratitude to His faithful friend.
Over the centuries some of the Popes had believed that it was genuine. Others had not. The Vatican librarian had learned that the current Pope, Sixtus IV, was contemplating having it destroyed.
The assistant librarian had been awaiting the arrival of the monk in the Biblioteca Secreta. His eyes deeply troubled, he handed him the parchment. “I do this under the direction of His Eminence Cardinal del Portego,” he said. “The sacred parchment must not be destroyed.
Hide it well in the monastery and do not let anyone know of its contents.”
The monk took the parchment, reverently kissed it, and then enfolded it in the protection of the sleeves of his flowing robe.
The letter to Joseph of Arimathea did not appear again until over five hundred years later when this story begins.
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Today is the day of my father’s funeral. He was murdered.
That was the first thought twenty-eight-year-old Mariah Lyons had as she awoke from a fitful sleep in the home where she had been raised in Mahwah, a town bordering the Ramapo Mountains in northern New Jersey. Brushing back the tears that were welling in her eyes, she sat up slowly, slid her feet onto the floor, and looked around her room.
When she was sixteen, she had been allowed to redecorate it as a birthday present and had chosen to have the walls painted red. For the coverlet and pillows and valances she had decided on a
cheery red-and-white flowered pattern. The big, comfortable chair in the corner was where she always did her homework, instead of at the desk. Her eyes fell upon the shelf that her father had built
over the dresser to hold her trophies from her high school soccer and basketball championship teams. He was so proud of me, she thought sadly. He wanted to redecorate again when I finished college, but I never wanted it changed. I don’t care if it still has the look of a teenager’s room.
She tried to remind herself that until now she had been one of those fortunate people whose only experience with death in the family had been when she was fifteen and her eighty-six-year-old grandmother had passed away in her sleep. I really loved Gran, but I was so grateful that she had been spared a lot of indignity, she thought. Her strength was failing and she hated to be dependent on anyone.
Mariah stood up, reached for the robe at the foot of the bed, and slipped into it, tying the sash around her slender waist. But this is different, she thought. My father did not die a natural death. He was shot while he was reading at his desk in his study downstairs. Her mouth went dry as she asked herself again the same questions she had been asking over and over. Was Mom in the room when it happened? Or did she come in after she heard the sound of the shot? And is there any chance that Mom was the one who did it? Please, God, don’t let it turn out to be that way.
She walked over to the vanity and looked into the mirror. I look so pale, she thought as she brushed back her shoulder-length black hair. Her eyes were swollen from all the tears of the last few days. An incongruous thought went through her mind: I’m glad I have Daddy’s dark blue eyes. I’m glad I’m tall like him. It sure helped when I was playing basketball.
“I can’t believe he is gone,” she whispered, recalling his seventieth birthday party only three weeks earlier. The events of the past four days replayed in her mind. On Monday evening she had stayed at her office to work out an investment plan for a new client. When she got home to her Greenwich Village apartment at eight o’clock, she had made her usual evening call to her father. Daddy sounded very down, she remembered. He told me that Mom had had a terrible day, that it was clear the Alzheimer’s was getting worse. Something made me phone back at ten thirty. I was worried about both of them.
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When Daddy didn’t answer, I knew that something was wrong. Mariah thought back to that seemingly endless drive from Greenwich Village as she had rushed to New Jersey that night. I called them again and again on the way over, she thought. She remembered how she had turned into the driveway at eleven twenty, fumbling for her house key in the dark as she ran from the car. All the downstairs lights were still on in the house, and once she was inside, she went straight to the study.
The horror of what she had found replayed in her mind as it had been doing incessantly. Her father was slumped across his desk, his head and shoulders bloodied. Her mother, soaked in blood, was cowering in the closet near the desk, clutching her father’s pistol.
Mom saw me and started moaning, “So much noise . . . so much blood . . . ”
Excerpt from THE LOST YEARS by Mary Higgins Clark Copyright © 2012 by Mary Higgins Clark. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc, NY.
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