The Christmas Thief: A Novel

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9780743271554: The Christmas Thief: A Novel

Lottery winner-turned-amateur sleuth Alvirah Meehan joins forces with private detective Regan Reilly to track down the ninety-foot tree, destined for display in Rockefeller Center, that vanished en route to the city, unaware that the tree contains a secret cache of priceless gems, hidden by scam artist Packey Noonan before being sent to prison. 500,000 first printing.

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About the Author:

Mary Higgins Clark's books are world-wide bestsellers. In the U.S. alone, her books have sold over 85 million copies.

Her next suspense novel, Where Are You Now? will be published by Simon & Schuster in April 2008.

She is the author of twenty-six previous suspense novels, Where Are the Children? (1975), A Stranger Is Watching (1978), The Cradle Will Fall (1980), A Cry in the Night (1982), Stillwatch (1984), Weep No More, My Lady (1987), While My Pretty One Sleeps (1989), Loves Music, Loves to Dance (1991), All Around the Town (1992), I'll Be Seeing You (1993), Remember Me (1994), Let Me Call You Sweetheart (1995), Silent Night (1995), Moonlight Becomes You (1996), Pretend You Don't See Her (1997), You Belong To Me (1998), All Through the Night (1998), We'll Meet Again (1999), Before I Say Good-Bye (2000), On the Street Where You Live (2001), Daddy's Little Girl (2002), The Second Time Around (2003), Nighttime is My Time (2004), No Place Like Home (2005), Two Little Girls in Blue (2006) and I Heard That Song Before (2007). She is the author of three collections of short stories, The Anastasia Syndrome & Other Stories (1989), The Lottery Winner: Alvirah & Willy Stories (1994) and My Gal Sunday: Henry and Sunday Stories (1996). Her first book, a biographical novel about George Washington, was re-issued with the title, Mount Vernon Love Story, in June 2002. Her memoir, Kitchen Privileges, was published by Simon & Schuster in November 2002. Her first children's book, Ghost Ship, illustrated by Wendell Minor, was published in April 2007 as a Paula Wiseman Book/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

She is co-author, with her daughter Carol Higgins Clark, of four holiday suspense novels Deck the Halls (2000), He Sees You When You're Sleeping (2001), The Christmas Thief (2004) and Santa Cruise (2006).

Two of her novels were made into feature films, Where Are the Children? and A Stranger Is Watching. Many of her other works, novels and short stories, were made into television films.

Mary Higgins Clark's fame as a writer was achieved against heavy odds. Born and raised in the Bronx, her father died when she was eleven and her mother struggled to raise her and her two brothers. On graduating from high school, she went to secretarial school, so she could get a job and help with the family finances. After three years of working in an advertising agency, travel fever seized her. For the year 1949, she was a stewardess on Pan American Airlines' international flights. "My run was Europe, Africa and Asia," she recalls. "I was in a revolution in Syria and on the last flight into Czechoslovakia before the Iron Curtain went down." After flying for a year, she married a neighbor, Warren Clark, nine years her senior, whom she had known since she was 16. Soon after her marriage, she started writing short stories, finally selling her first to Extension Magazine in 1956 for $100.

Left a young widow by the death of her husband from a heart attack in 1964, Mary Higgins Clark went to work writing radio scripts and, in addition, decided to try her hand at writing books. Every morning, she got up at 5 AM and wrote until 7 AM, when she had to get her five children ready for school. Her very first book was a biographical novel about George Washington, inspired by a radio series she was writing, "Portrait of a Patriot." Originally published in 1969 by Meredith Press with the title Aspire to the Heavens, it was discovered years later by a Washington family member and re-issued in 2002 with the title, Mount Vernon Love Story.

Mary Higgins Clark's first suspense novel, Where Are the Children? was published by Simon & Schuster in 1975. It became a bestseller and marked a turning point in her life and career. It is currently in its 75th edition in paperback and was re-issued in hardcover as a Simon & Schuster classic.

Freed to catch up on things she always wanted to do, she entered Fordham University at Lincoln Center, graduating summa cum laude in 1979 with a B.A. in philosophy. She was awarded an honorary doctorate from Fordham University in 1998. She is a past trustee of Fordham University and Providence College and currently on the Board of Governors of the Hackensack College Medical Center. She has nineteen honorary doctorates.

She is #1 fiction bestselling author in France, where she received the Grand Prix de Literature Policière in 1980 and The Literary Award at the 1998 Deauville Film Festival. In 2000, she was named by the French Minister of Culture "Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters."

Mary Higgins Clark was chosen by Mystery Writers of America as Grand Master of the 2000 Edgar Awards. An annual Mary Higgins Clark Award sponsored by Simon & Schuster, to be given to authors of suspense fiction writing in the Mary Higgins Clark tradition, was launched by Mystery Writers of America during Edgars week in April 2001. She was the 1987 president of Mystery Writers of America and, for many years, served on their Board of Directors. In May 1988, she was Chairman of the International Crime Congress.

Active in Catholic affairs, Mary Higgins Clark was made a Dame of the Order of St. Gregory the Great, a papal honor. She is also a Dame of Malta and a Lady of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem. She received the Catholic Big Sisters Distinguished Service Award in 1998 and the Graymoor Award from the Franciscan Friars in 1999. Honors she has received include the Gold Medal of Honor from the American-Irish Historical Society (1993), the Spirit of Achievement Award from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University (1994), the National Arts Club's first Gold Medal in Education (1994), the Horatio Alger Award (1997), the Outstanding Mother of the Year Award (1998), the Bronx Legend Award (1999), the 2001 Ellis Island Medal of Honor, the Passionists' Ethics in Literature Award (2002), the first Reader's Digest Author of the Year Award (2002), the Christopher Life Achievement Award (2003), the Ellis Island Family Heritage Award (2008), the Carol M. Reilly Award (2008) and the International Mystery Writers' First Lady of Mystery Award (2008). She is an active advocate and participant in literacy programs.

In 1996, Mary Higgins Clark married John Conheeney, the retired Chairman and CEO of Merrill-Lynch Futures. They live in Saddle River, New Jersey. Between them, they have seventeen grandchildren - Mary's six and John's eleven.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

The Christmas Thief

1



Packy Noonan carefully placed an x on the calendar he had pinned to the wall of his cell in the federal prison located near Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. Packy was overflowing with love for his fellow man. He had been a guest of the United States Government for twelve years, four months, and two days. But because he had served over 85 percent of his sentence and been a model prisoner, the parole board had reluctantly granted Packy his freedom as of November 12, which was only two weeks away.

Packy, whose full name was Patrick Coogan Noonan, was a world-class scam artist whose offense had been to cheat trusting investors out of nearly $100 million in the seemingly legitimate company he had founded. When the house of cards collapsed, after deducting the money he had spent on homes, cars, jewelry, bribes, and shady ladies, most of the rest, nearly $80 million, could not be accounted for.

In the years of his incarceration, Packy’s story never changed. He insisted that his two missing associates had run off with the rest of the money and that, like his victims, he, too, had been the victim of his own trusting nature.

Fifty years old, narrow-faced, with a hawklike nose, close-set eyes, thinning brown hair, and a smile that inspired trust, Packy had stoically endured his years of confinement. He knew that when the day of deliverance came, his nest egg of $80 million would sufficiently compensate him for his discomfort.

He was ready to assume a new identity once he picked up his loot; a private plane would whisk him to Brazil, and a skillful plastic surgeon there had already been engaged to rearrange the sharp features that might have served as the blueprint for the working of his brain.

All the arrangements had been made by his missing associates, who were now residing in Brazil and had been living on $10 million of the missing funds. The remaining fortune Packy had managed to hide before he was arrested, which was why he knew he could count on the continued cooperation of his cronies.

The long-standing plan was that upon his release Packy would go to the halfway house in New York, as required by the terms of his parole, dutifully follow regulations for about a day, then shake off anyone following him, meet his partners in crime, and drive to Stowe, Vermont. There they were to have rented a farmhouse, a flatbed trailer, a barn to hide it in, and whatever equipment it took to cut down a very large tree.

“Why Vermont?” Giuseppe Como, better known as Jo-Jo, wanted to know. “You told us you hid the loot in New Jersey. Were you lying to us, Packy?”

“Would I lie to you?” Packy had asked, wounded. “Maybe I don’t want you talking in your sleep.”

Jo-Jo and Benny, forty-two-year-old fraternal twins, had been in on the scam from the beginning, but both humbly acknowledged that neither one of them had the fertile mind needed to concoct grandiose schemes. They recognized their roles as foot soldiers of Packy and willingly accepted the droppings from his table since, after all, they were lucrative droppings.

“O Christmas tree, my Christmas tree,” Packy whispered to himself as he contemplated finding the special branch of one particular tree in Vermont and retrieving the flask of priceless diamonds that had been nestling there for over thirteen years.

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