MHC is known as the “Queen of Suspense” and rightly so. No Place Like Home is a fast paced riveting suspense story of Celia Nolan and how the ghosts of her past re-visit her.
Celia Nolan and her four year old son Jack think they are going to see a horse show when Alex Nolan (her husband) takes a detour to Mendham. He discloses that he has bought a new house for Celia as her surprise birthday present. Standing in front of the house Celia is speechless – as if living a nightmare. It was her childhood home where she lived till she was ten.
As a child Liza Barton had it all – loving parents, a wonderful house huge with horse stables. But things fell apart. When she was ten, her father mysteriously died and soon after that she caught her step father Ted Cartwright harassing her mother Audrey Barton, and trying to kill her. In an attempt to save her mother Liza, on having grabbed her father’s gun, ended up firing multiple rounds into her mother’s chest and injuring Ted. Though Liza was acquitted by the Juvenile Court, the media branded her as “Lizzie Borden” (the infamous murderess) pointing to the similarity of their names. And the house earned the appellation “LITTLE LIZZIE’S PLACE. BEWARE!”
As on orphan Liza spent time in juvenile shelter till some distant relatives adopted her. They genuinely loved and cared for Liza; and changed her name to Celia Kellogg. After graduating from college, Celia opened a design studio in Manhattan where she fell in love with her first husband Laurence Foster, a philanthropist and a childless sixty-year-old widower, with whom she had a son, Jack. Two years later Laurence dies leaving her a young widow. But on his deathbed he makes her promise him that she would never reveal her true identity (as Liza Barton) to anyone in order to protect Jack from the stigma of her past.
Two year later she marries Alex Nolan.
Now standing in front of the same house Celia can feel her mind shattering as if she is “returning to the crime scene”. She notices the words “little lizzie’s place – beware” painted on the lawn, splotches of red paint all over the house, and a skull and crossbones carved into the door.
Georgette Grove, the realtor, informs Alex about the history of the house. Thanks to a real estate code obligating agents to notify prospective buyers if a house could be considered “stigmatized property”. Soon Georgette is found murdered and Celia becomes the prime suspect. And she, along with her son, becomes the targets of the killers. The body count increases as their local landscaper, Charley Hatch, is found murdered too.
And someone keeps calling Celia over the phone calling her Little Liza. It seems like someone knows about her past.
Celia is hounded by an obsessed, over-zealous detective; and has a reporter, Dru Perry tracking her relatives in Florida. The District Attorney believes that Celia is innocent but his department discovers that she is indeed Liza Barton. She tries many a times to reveal the truth to Alex but never finds the right time. Celia decides to find out why Ted was in the house the night of the tragedy before coming clean to Alex.
As the mystery is finally solved, after an unexpected twist, Celia’s life is no longer the same.
Most of the characters look guilty leaving you guessing till the very end. This intricate mystery, with shady murder suspects, lies and deceit makes for an entertaining thriller. A worthy read.