December 06, 2004 12:00 PM

NOVEL

by Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark

Stealing the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree from a Vermont farm is a definite Noel no-no, but Packy Noonan, the Scrooge responsible, isn’t just trying to steal Christmas. Before being shipped off to prison for bilking money from gullible investors such as lottery winner Opal Fogarty, he stowed $70 million in diamonds in the giant spruce.

This is the third collaboration for mother Mary and daughter Carol, who between them have published 35 novels. As in any Christmas tale, the naughty and nice get what they deserve as Opal goes sleuthing for answers along with a silly cast of supporting characters. But the plot is as musty as last year’s tinsel, and the writing ranges from plodding to painful: “Benny, easily intimidated, cowered in the backseat. He had for gotten that Packy goes nuts when he’s worried.”

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