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Literature / Let Me Call You Sweetheart

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Let Me Call You Sweetheart is a 1995 crime suspense novel by Mary Higgins Clark.

Eleven years ago, beautiful socialite Suzanne Reardon was found brutally strangled to death, her body covered with sweetheart roses in what is now known as the Sweetheart Murder Case. Her husband Skip was convicted of killing her, but to this day insists he is innocent.

In the present, assistant prosecutor Kerry McGrath brings her daughter to a plastic surgeon after a car accident, where she sees two patients who inexplicably resemble Suzanne. She then learns that the plastic surgeon, Dr Charles Smith, is in fact Suzanne's father and seems to be intentionally recreating his daughter's face. Intrigued, Kerry looks into the Sweetheart Murder Case....and the further she looks, the more she is convinced not all is as it appears. However, it becomes clear someone doesn't want her investigating the murder and may be willing to go to any lengths to stop her...


Contains examples of:

  • Accidental Murder: Jason Arnott didn't intend to kill Congressman Peale's mother; after she caught him robbing the house he tried to knock her down to escape, but she fell down a flight of stairs and broke her neck.
  • Adorably Precocious Child: Robin Kinellen, who is quite mature and perceptive for a ten year old.
  • Alone with the Psycho: Kerry and Robin are alone with the killer in the climax. Except not quite; Jonathan claimed he gave Grace extra sleeping tonic so she wouldn't see or hear anything, but Grace apparently figured something was up and didn't drink it, allowing her to intervene.
  • Amoral Attorney: Bob Kinellen is a downplayed example. He's more interested in his career than obtaining justice and is willing to defend some unsavoury people, such as mobster Jimmy Weeks. In fairness, he uses legal methods, but he still defends Jimmy even knowing he's been threatening his daughter.
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  • Anger Born of Worry: Jonathan gets very frustrated with Kerry as she continues looking into Suzanne's murder; he firmly believes Skip killed Suzanne and he doesn't want Kerry to risk her chance of a judgeship and potentially cast a bad light on his own reputation chasing imaginary leads. Of course, the later revelations about Jonathan's role in the murder paints his reaction in a very different light.
  • Anti-Villain: Jason Arnott. He's a self-serving, amoral thief, but he's pretty affable and has never intentionally killed anyone. He steals mostly because he likes beautiful things and he appears genuinely regretful about what happened to the Reardons, although at the same time he never came forward with the information that could've exonerated Skip to protect himself.
  • Apologetic Attacker: Grace apologizes to Jonathan after she shoots him, but says she "couldn't let [him]" harm Kerry and Robin.
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  • Asshole Victim: Downplayed and deconstructed to an extent with Suzanne. By all accounts she was selfish, materialistic, immature and blatantly unfaithful to her husband, but even then few of the characters think she deserved to die (especially in such a brutal manner). Her killer's excuse for murdering her also comes across as extremely petty, making him out to be a far worse person. Kerry's investigation into Suzanne's backstory also partly explains why she could be so awful and she comes across as quite a pitiable figure.
  • Attention Whore: Suzanne. As she often felt overlooked in her childhood and inferior to her stepsisters, she made up for it later in life by always making herself the centre of attention. Unfortunately, this also extended to cheating on her husband, which led to disaster.
  • Being Good Sucks: Kerry gets a lot of this when she starts investigating the Sweetheart Murder Case, suspecting that Skip could actually be innocent of killing his wife. For this, she gets in trouble with her boss who was the prosecutor at the original trial, risks losing her dream position as a judge and has her daughter threatened by someone. She persists anyway and it pays off in the end.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Horribly averted with Suzanne. She was a Head-Turning Beauty in life, but after being strangled to death, her face was badly distorted. Dr Smith and Jason Arnott both keep photographs of her by their beds so they can remember as she was, rather than constantly dreaming about how her body looked.
  • Betty and Veronica: Beth Taylor is the Betty and Suzanne was the Veronica for Skip. Beth is a kind, humble and patient woman who worked as a teacher and guidance counsellor; Suzanne was a charming, vivacious but self-absorbed socialite. Skip was dazzled by Suzanne, but after a few years of being married to her, he found that their relationship was 'all heat and no warmth'; he now regrets ever marrying her and thinks he should've stayed with Beth, not least because he was convicted of murdering Suzanne.
  • Big Damn Heroes: In the climax, Grace unexpectedly shoots Jonathan as he's about to kill Kerry, saving her and Robin.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The ending is largely happy; Suzanne's real killer is identified and brought to justice one way or another, Skip is released, Jimmy Weeks finally goes to prison, Geoff and Kerry are implied to become a couple and Kerry becomes a judge. However, it is slightly tainted by the knowledge that Kerry's relationship with Jonathan and Grace has been left in tatters after Jonathan was revealed to be Suzanne's killer and tried to kill Kerry and Robin, while Grace may have suspected the truth all along but let an innocent man be sent to prison for it.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • Dr Smith tells Kerry he never did work on Suzanne and she was a natural beauty. This is untrue. Although, from Smith's perspective, she was born with the potential for beauty and he restored her 'birthright'.
    • Suzanne told Jason Arnott that her stepsisters were both jealous of her growing up because she was more beautiful. It was actually the other way around; plain little Susie was jealous of her pretty stepsisters.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: She's not scathing or rude about it, but Robin tells her mother in no uncertain terms that she thinks it's wrong of her not to try and prove it if she thinks Skip is innocent, even if it causes personal difficulties for her. Kerry decides Robin is right.
  • Calling Parents by Their Name: Suzanne called her father Charles or Doctor, not Dad, which is just one hint that their relationship wasn't a normal parent-child relationship.
  • Chekhov's Gun: A literal gun. Jonathan remarks at one point that Grace has kept a gun in her bedside table for years and he taught her how to shoot, just in case she ever needed to defend herself. Grace ends up using it to shoot Jonathan to save Kerry and Robin in the climax.
  • Cinderella Plot: Suzanne's backstory is reminiscent of Cinderella's, which she even lampshaded. Unfortunately, Suzanne's story definitely didn't end in a happily ever after, not to mention some of the 'facts' were distorted. Suzanne claims she was raised by an unloving stepparent and that her two stepsisters were always envious of her for her beauty and popularity. It turns out it was the other way around; Suzanne, or Susie as she was originally known, was resentful of her stepsisters' attractiveness and popularity, while she was overlooked. Her stepdad was also not a wicked stepparent but genuinely cared for her and did his best to raise her as his own, but their relationship was always strained. Dr Smith gave her an extreme make-over like the Fairy Godmother, only this make-over didn't end at midnight, given plastic surgery is usually permanent. Suzanne became a glamorous socialite and landed herself a prince...well, a rich architect who built her a fancy house. Unfortunately, Suzanne found out the hard way that good looks and wealth alone aren't enough to make you happy (not helped by her 'Fairy Godmother' becoming possessive over her), starting cheating on her husband and ended up being murdered.
  • Clear Their Name: Geoff Dorso has worked for years to try and clear Skip's name, believing he didn't kill his wife. Kerry eventually gets on the bandwagon too and is integral to helping Geoff prove Skip's innocence.
  • Color Motif: It's mentioned that Kerry has hazel eyes and she's frequently described as wearing green clothing. The color green is sometimes used to symbolize balance or harmony, which is appropriate for Kerry given her dedication to justice, and her struggle to balance this with her personal goals and needs.
  • Corrupt Politician: Played with in Senator Jonathan Hoover's case. When it comes to politics themselves, he appears to be an honest man. However, his personal life reveals a much darker side to him.
  • Cradling Your Kill: After shooting Jonathan, Grace slides out of her wheelchair and holds him in her arms.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Dr Smith painted Skip Reardon as this during his testimony, insisting he was insanely jealous and paranoid about his wife and other men. It turns out this wasn't true; not only did Skip have a good reason to be jealous as Suzanne was seeing other men, but their marriage had reached such a low point he didn't even care anymore and was seriously considering a divorce.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Suzanne was strangled to death with her own belt, to the point her eyes nearly burst from her head.
  • Crusading Lawyer:
    • Kerry McGrath. She's a prosecutor and aspiring judge who believes strongly in getting justice for victims and their loved ones, and refuses to accept job offers from law firms even though they pay better, because she's more interested in justice.
    • Geoff Dorso is a defence lawyer who feels compelled to advocate for people affected by mitigating circumstances, or who he believes to be innocent.
  • A Deadly Affair: One theory about Suzanne's murder is that she was killed by her possible lover, or that her husband killed her out of jealousy she was seeing someone else. It's eventually revealed her lover killed her for refusing to give back jewellery he'd given her, and for flaunting her new boyfriend.
  • Disabled Love Interest: Grace to Jonathan. She didn't start out as disabled but suffered early on-set arthritis, which has steadily worsened over the years. She's now in her early sixties and can barely walk at all, relying on a wheelchair to get around and being mostly housebound as she finds it too difficult to go out. Jonathan still stands by his wife and does what he can to support her physically and emotionally; they clearly love each other very much. It ends up being Played for Drama in the ending; it's revealed that eleven years ago Jonathan had difficulty coming to terms with his wife's deteriorating health, compelling him to conduct an affair with Suzanne, whom he later killed. Part of the reason Jonathan is desperate to keep this from coming out is because he feels he must protect Grace, to the point he's willing to kill again.
  • Disappeared Dad:
    • Kerry's father died when she was in university; she sees Senator Jonathan Hoover as a surrogate father.
    • Dr Smith hadn't seen his daughter since she was a baby and allowed her stepfather to adopt her, until she turned up on his doorstep at the age of nineteen.
  • Disneyland Dad: Bob Kinellen is a Type II to Robin. To make up for being emotionally neglectful and repeatedly prioritizing his work and new family over her, he takes her to expensive restaurants and buys her things her mother can't afford as easily (when he doesn't cancel, that is). Kerry isn't impressed, because she hates to see how hurt Robin is by Bob's flakiness and hands-off parenting; Robin still loves spending time with her dad and occasionally defends him to her mother, but it's implied she's starting to realize Bob's not a great father.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Jonathan being angry at Suzanne for refusing to give him back his wife's jewellery and flaunting her new boyfriend in his face is understandable. But strangling her to death over it is way beyond the pale.
  • Dreaming the Truth: On two separate occasions, Kerry has nightmares about the women she saw in Dr Smith's clinic whose features are hauntingly familiar; in her nightmare the woman is lying on the floor with a knotted cord around her neck. After the second nightmare, Kerry finally realizes where she's seen their faces before; they're both look nearly identical to infamous murder victim Suzanne Reardon; her boss was the lead prosecutor on the case when she first starting working for him.
  • Driven to Suicide: Dr Smith intends to commit suicide near the end of the story, because he won't be able to perform surgery anymore; he's in the early stages of Parkinson's and Barbara Tompkins has reported his stalking to Kerry, which could result in criminal charges and would ruin his reputation. He never actually gets around to killing himself though, because someone else beats him to the punch.
  • Driving Question:
    • The main one is, of course: "Did Skip kill Suzanne, and if he didn't, then who did?"
    • A secondary, related question is: "What happened to Suzanne's missing jewellery?"
  • Dr. Jerk: Charles Smith is a brilliant plastic surgeon, but he's also blunt to the point of being rude, arrogant, obsessive, vengeful and just generally off-putting. It's deconstructed, as Smith's jerk tendencies are actually costing him patients due to him making them uncomfortable.
  • Dumb Blonde: Very much inverted for Kerry. She has "dusky" blonde hair and is a highly intelligent and shrewd prosecutor.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending:
    • After eleven years, Skip is exonerated of murdering Suzanne and gets to marry his long-time girlfriend, Beth.
    • Kerry proves Skip's innocence and finds the real killer without buggering up her chances of judgeship; the novel ends with her being sworn in as a judge and it's implied she and Geoff will become a couple.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: The revelation of the killer's identity in the climax changes the context of several scenes. Before it looked like Jonathan was trying to warn Kerry off the Sweetheart Murder Case because he was concerned she would pointlessly derail her career. The revelation that he's the killer makes it clear this is the real reason he didn't want Kerry looking into the case, although he (initially) didn't want to have to harm Kerry to silence her, either.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: Kerry figures out that Jonathan Hoover, who she loves like a father, has been the murderer all along. When he realizes this, Jonathan attempts to murder both her and her young daughter to keep the truth buried.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Jonathan is revealed to be the killer and admits he genuinely loves his wife Grace. Given his treatment of her throughout the novel, one gets the sense he's being sincere. Unfortunately, in order to stay with her he's willing to do some pretty horrid things. To a lesser extent, Jonathan does appear to care for Kerry and Robin, but he still feels he has no choice but to kill them to keep his cushy life.
  • First Father Wins: Downplayed and deconstructed with Suzanne and Dr Smith. She preferred him to her stepfather, Wayne, though she was unfairly resentful of Wayne for her unhappy childhood. Her relationship with Dr Smith was also not very healthy and she came to find him overbearing.
  • Given Name Reveal: It's revealed that Suzanne wasn't her birth name; throughout her childhood she was known as Sue Ellen 'Susie' Stevens. She changed her name to Suzanne to seem more sophisticated and to distance herself from her miserable childhood.
  • Good Lawyers, Good Clients: Geoff intentionally invokes this. He only defends people he believes are innocent, or were affected by mitigating circumstances and are remorseful.
  • Good Stepmother: Wayne Stevens was a gender-flip to Suzanne. He adopted her after marrying her mother and did his best to be a good father to her. Unfortunately, Suzanne was never that appreciative and cut him off after her mother died, going to live with her biological father. Wayne always hoped she'd return someday and is deeply shocked and saddened when he learns Suzanne was murdered over a decade ago.
  • Gut Feeling: The moment Kerry realizes that two of Dr Smith's patients have been made to resemble his murdered daughter, she cannot shake the feeling something isn't right here. It's more justified in that she's a prosecutor, so it's her job to pick up on these kinds of things, and she does some actual detective work to find evidence that backs up her uneasiness.
  • Harmful to Minors: Kerry's daughter Robin goes through quite a lot throughout the novel. First she's involved in a car accident that cuts her face quite severely and is lucky not to have more serious injuries. Then someone begins following Robin and sends a picture of her to Kerry to try scare her off the Sweetheart Murder Case. To top it all off, the climax involves Kerry and Robin being held at gunpoint by the killer; he intends to murder them both to cover his tracks.
  • Heel Realization: Bob has one near the end of the story; he'd previously justified defending Jimmy Weeks in court as Jimmy having a right to defense. However, Jimmy then starts asking him to do unethical or even illegal things to get him acquitted, and he knows that Jimmy is threatening his own child.
  • Hypocrite: The killer. Jonathan Hoover expresses disgust at Suzanne going out with Jimmy Weeks, because he's "a thug". Jonathan himself has killed two people, strangling Suzanne with her own belt and shooting Dr Smith in the head, and later plans to murder two more people, including a ten year old child.
  • I Just Want to Be Beautiful: Barbara Tompkins and Pamela Worth both came to Dr Smith for cosmetic surgery; Barbara in particular asked Dr Smith if he could just make her pretty, saying she knows she shouldn't care so much, but she does.
  • Internal Reveal: The reader is told early on that Jason Arnott is an art thief who broke into the Reardon's home the night Suzanne was murdered, but it takes much longer for the other characters to catch onto this. It gets played for quite a bit of Dramatic Irony, such as FBI agent Si Morgan believing Arnott is an unlikely suspect and Arnott getting to hear all about one his heists from a friend.
  • It Began with a Twist of Fate: The catalyst for the novel's events is Robin getting her face cut by flying glass, after her father pulled out of his driveway too quickly and another car slammed into them. Dr Smith was recommended to Kerry and during two of Robin's appointments, Kerry just happened to see two different patients who bear an uncanny resemblance to an infamous murder victim, piquing Kerry's interest. Kerry herself acknowledges that if it weren't for these events, she would likely never have looked into the Sweetheart Murder Case.
  • It's All My Fault: Grace tells Kerry she blames herself for everything in the end; she knew her husband was having an affair with Suzanne after seeing her wearing some of her jewellery and subtly demanded he end it. Jonathan interpreted this as Grace wanting the jewellery back as well and ended up murdering Suzanne in a rage when she wouldn't hand it over. Grace states she didn't really care about the jewellery; it was just her way of telling Jonathan to end the affair.
  • I Will Wait for You: Beth has waited a decade for Skip to be released from prison, out of love for him and belief in his innocence.
  • Jury and Witness Tampering: Jimmy Weeks has a history of bribing jurors to help get himself acquitted, such as paying one juror's medical bills for her sick relative. His lawyers, Anthony Bartlett and Bob Kinellen, are suspicious about this, but take the 'don't ask, don't tell' approach because he's their best client.
  • Kill the Ones You Love: Grace kills her husband Jonathan to protect Kerry and Robin; he was planning on killing them to stop Kerry from revealing he was Suzanne's murderer.
  • Knight Templar Parent: After stumbling across his daughter's body, Smith believed that Skip had murdered her after learning she was having an affair. He worried that Skip would be treated more leniently by a jury, so he hid the evidence of the affair and testified that Skip was unjustly jealous, so that he would get a harsher sentence as punishment for killing Suzanne.
  • Like a Daughter to Me: Grace and Jonathan Hoover, who never had children, treat Kerry like a daughter. They view her daughter Robin like a grandchild, and she in turn calls them Uncle Jonathan and Aunt Grace.
  • Loving a Shadow: Kerry admits that her ex husband Bob wasn't the man she thought he was when they married; she believed they had the same values around upholding justice, but it turns out he was more interested in advancing his career by taking on wealthy clients irrespective of their guilt. He ended up leaving Kerry when their daughter was just a baby and married his boss's daughter the next year.
  • Lured into a Trap: In the climax, Jonathan realizes Kerry is about to unmask him as Suzanne's killer, so he calls and tells her Robin - who he is babysitting - had a horrible nightmare and needs her. Just as Jonathan anticipated, Kerry immediately rushes to his house to be there for her daughter, where Jonathan intends to abduct them, drive them to a remote location and kill them under the pretense of it being a mob hit. Shortly before arriving there, Kerry figures out what's really going on, but she willingly walks into the trap to save Robin.
  • Mad Doctor: Dr Smith really isn't right in the head. He's obsessed with his dead daughter to the point of recreating her likeness in other women and is revealed to have performed surgery on her himself, which is rather unethical. He views Barbara Tompkins as his creation and feels he's entitled to her company, and felt much the same about Suzanne. He gets almost violently angry with Kerry when she questions him, to the point she genuinely fears for her safety, and then intends to kill himself near the end of the story due to no longer being able to operate. Overall, he is just not a well man.
  • Mama Bear:
    • Kerry is very protective of her only child, Robin. She tells Geoff she can't imagine shooting anyone except to defend Robin and while she's usually indifferent towards her ex-husband, she gets righteously angry with him where Robin is concerned. When Jonathan threatens them at gunpoint in the climax, Kerry orders Robin to run while she throws herself at Jonathan, trying to get the gun off him. Jonathan actually exploits this trait to lure Kerry to the house; he calls to say Robin had a nightmare, knowing she would come running.
    • Deidre Reardon's only child has spent a decade in prison for a crime he insists he didn't commit. She's starting to fear he will give up hope of ever being exonerated, or that she could die before he's released. Consequently, Deidre insists on seeing Kerry about Skip and gives her a right dressing down for thinking her son capable of murder, and for getting his hopes up that she might help him prove his innocence only to 'abandon' him. However, when she learns Kerry dropped the case after Robin was threatened, she is completely understanding.
    • When Jonathan tries to kill Kerry and Robin, who are like a daughter and granddaughter to her, Grace shoots her husband dead.
  • Mama Didn't Raise No Criminal: Deidre insists her son, a convicted murderer who has had five failed appeals, could never kill anyone, least of all his own wife. Turns out she's completely right.
  • Marriage of Convenience: It's hinted that one of the main reasons Bob married his second wife, Alice Bartlett, is because her father, Anthony Bartlett, is head of the law firm where he works. Though he might be biased, Jason Arnott can't really see what else Bob likes about Alice, finding her cold, boring and posessive.
  • Maybe Ever After: Geoff and Kerry pretty clearly have romantic feelings for each other, and both their families approve. It's not made explicit they become a couple, but the ending strongly implies they'll get together.
  • May–December Romance: Suzanne had a long-term affair with Jonathan Hoover; she was in her mid-twenties while he was in his early fifties at the time, making for a gap of around three decades. It's deconstructed as they weren't truly in love with each other, despite Jonathan treating it quite seriously – he was and still is in love with his wife but struggled to cope with her declining health, while Suzanne made him feel young and desirable again. When Grace found out about the affair, Jonathan felt foolish and decided to end it. It then turned out that Suzanne just seemed to like the attention he showered upon her and had already moved on to other lovers, much to Jonathan's displeasure.
  • Miscarriage of Justice: Skip Reardon claims he was wrongfully convicted for the murder of his wife, Suzanne, and Kerry starts to wonder the same thing, digging to find out the truth. It turns out he really is innocent.
  • Morton's Fork: It's revealed that Skip had been planning to leave Suzanne for his old flame, Beth. However, this was kept quiet at his trial because it was regarded as a "double-edged sword"; on one hand it cast doubt on him murdering Suzanne out of jealousy, but on the other it suggests wanting her out of the way as quickly as possible as motive for murder.
  • Never the Obvious Suspect: The killer is revealed to be Jonathan Hoover, Kerry's close friend and father figure who has had a major role throughout the story, but was never regarded as a suspect until the end.
  • Not Me This Time:
    • It's revealed that Jimmy Weeks didn't kill Suzanne, but he desperately tried to stop Kerry's investigations because he believed it would be pinned on him; Suzanne was having an affair with him, he had sent her the roses that were thrown over her body and he had been overheard threatening to kill her after she failed to show up for a date (unbeknownst to Jimmy at the time, it was because she'd been murdered). He may also have illegally bought property once owned by Skip Reardon, who sold it off to pay for legal fees when he was charged with Suzanne's death.
    • Jason Arnott killed Congressman Peale's mother (albeit by mistake) and was in the house when Suzanne was murdered, but he didn't kill her; he overheard (and was nearly caught by) the man who actually murdered her.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Dr Smith never approved of his son-in-law Skip, believing him unworthy of Suzanne (and it's implied he was jealous and resentful of him for getting to spend more time with Suzanne). He hated him so much, he was convinced right away that Skip killed Suzanne and it was largely his testimony that got Skip convicted. For his part, Skip claims his father-in-law lied about him threatening Suzanne and unjustly accusing her of infidelity. It's revealed that Smith did lie in his testimony, though he did truly believe at the time that Skip had murdered his daughter.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Suzanne's father and stepfather both outlive her. Dr Smith has never come to terms with it, while her stepfather never even knew she'd died until eleven years later due to her changing her name.
  • Parental Incest: Kerry wonders if Dr Smith was attracted to his own daughter, Suzanne, as the way he treated her and his fixation on her doesn't come off as fatherly. He vehemently denies it, although he was clearly jealous of her husband and there is a moment when he wonders if he would be reincarnated as Suzanne's lover in another life. Kerry and a few other characters theorize that Smith may not even have loved Suzanne romantically, but more as a precious piece of art he'd help create.
  • Parental Substitute: Grace and Jonathan Hoover are like parents to Kerry, especially as her mother lives several hours away and her father died while she was in university.
  • Plain Jane: It turns out Suzanne was this in her childhood before getting plastic surgery. The nicest thing her stepfather can say about her looks is that she was "not a pretty girl".
  • Plastic Bitch: The novel plays with this, with its overall message seeming to be less that getting cosmetic surgery is a sign of being a bad person and more that it won't fix a crappy personality or poor attitude.
    • It's revealed that Suzanne Reardon received plastic surgery to make her physically beautiful but she subsequently became conceited and hedonistic with little regard for others' feelings. It's indicated that she was never an especially pleasant person to begin with, being extremely envious of others and whining about the unfairness of it while doing little to improve herself and overlooking her other qualities. Getting plastic surgery merely amplified or added to her negative traits while still not fully removing her insecurities; she would even tell lies to her friends about how she was always considered beautiful and had to put up with other girls being envious.
    • Averted with Barbara Tompkins, who is depicted as a genuinely kind and polite young woman who merely lacked confidence due to her insecurities around her looks. After receiving surgery, she blossoms both in her professional and personal lives, and she's never depicted as a bad person for it. In fact, her biggest issue is that she's too polite to tell Dr Smith all his attention is making her uncomfortable, not wanting to seem ungrateful.
  • Psychological Projection: Part of the reason Smith was convinced Skip murdered Suzanne was because he believes he himself would've killed his wife for having an affair, and that any man would if he'd been married to a woman like Suzanne.
  • Pygmalion Plot: A super creepy example with Dr Smith and Suzanne, given she's his biological daughter. The term "Pygmalion fantasy" is even used to refer to his relationship with her. He gave her plastic surgery to make her strikingly beautiful, and also coached her on how to behave and speak, bought her an apartment and hired a personal shopper for her. Smith was completely obsessed with Suzanne, to the point she found him overbearing. Even after her death, he continues to be obsessed with her, making other patients physically resemble her and becoming fixated on one woman, Barbara Tompkins, who particularly reminds him of Suzanne.
  • Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: Suzanne was a very beautiful woman with fair skin and dark brown hair. Barbara Tompkins and Pamela Worth end up looking like this too, after Dr Smith works on them.
  • "Reason You Suck" Speech: Geoff gives a short yet succinct one to Bob Kinellen.
    Bob: Aren't you taking a lot interest in my client [Jimmy Weeks]?
    Geoff: General interest at this point.
    Bob: Is that why you're seeing Kerry?
    Geoff: Bob, I don't think you have even the faintest right to ask that question. Nevertheless I'll answer it. I was glad to be there for her after you dropped the bombshell that your illustrious client is threatening her child. Has anyone nominated you for Father of the Year yet? If not, don't waste your time waiting for the call. Somehow I don't think you'll make it.
  • Red Herring: A number of people are set up as Suzanne's possible murderer besides Skip.
    • Charles Smith, Suzanne's father. His testimony that Skip was jealous of Suzanne helped convict him, he was and still is obsessed with his daughter to the point of recreating her face in some of his patients, and a car matching the description of his own vehicle was seen parked outside the house the night she died.
    • Jimmy Weeks, a mobster, who was rumoured to be romantically involved with Suzanne and isn't above using violence to get his own way. It's also revealed he is the one sending veiled threats to Kerry regarding her daughter, when he learns she's looking into Suzanne's murder.
    • Jason Arnott, an antiques dealer who was friends with Suzanne, and broke into her house to burglarise it the night of the murder, believing it was empty, and previously killed someone during a botched heist.
    • It turns out none of them killed Suzanne. Jonathan Hoover did.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Dr Smith starts treating one of his patients, Barbara Tompkins, as this for his daughter (whom he intentionally made her resemble when he gave her cosmetic surgery). It quickly gets creepy when it turns out he's stalking Barbara.
  • Second-Act Breakup: Kerry and Geoff aren't exactly a couple but grow very close as they work on the Sweetheart Murder Case together. However, they have a falling out when Kerry tells him she can't look into the case anymore because it might cost her being appointed a judge, and that she can't find any new evidence suggesting Skip is innocent. Geoff leaves her in frustration, even mockingly calling her "Your Honor". He deeply regrets it later, feeling he's being unfair to Kerry by suggesting she only had selfish motivations and that she was doing him a favor by simply agreeing to look at the case. He is nothing but supportive when he learns someone is following Robin to try and scare Kerry away. After Kerry herself uncovers evidence that casts strong doubt on Skip's guilt, she decides she doesn't deserve to be a judge if she turned a blind eye to a potential miscarriage of justice; Geoff helps her protect Robin by letting her stay with his family.
  • Shipper on Deck: Geoff's mother and Kerry's daughter both ship Geoff and Kerry together.
  • Socialite: Suzanne became a socialite after marrying her husband. She had a lucrative career as a Fashion Model until she married wealthy architect and contractor Skip Reardon, who was initially happy to support her. Suzanne largely spent her days at a golf club, shopping for luxury items or at swanky parties in and around New York City and conducting affairs with several members of New York's elite.
  • Staircase Tumble: Several years back when Jason Arnott burgled Congressman Peale's house, he was caught by Peale's elderly mother and shoved her down the stairs as he fled, killing her. It turns out he didn't mean for this to happen; he only meant to knock her to the ground but miscalculated how close to the staircase she was standing.
  • Stalker Without a Crush: Dr Smith begins stalking his patient Barbara Tompkins, who reminds him of his late daughter. It's revealed he was stalking Suzanne as well. It's possible he's a Stalker with a Crush, too, with all that entails.
  • Starter Marriage: Kerry's marriage to Bob only lasted about six years. She was willing to make things work, especially as they had a baby together, but Bob wasn't interested. In hindsight, Kerry thinks that the only good thing she got out of the relationship was their daughter.
  • Til Murder Do Us Part: Skip was convicted of murdering his wife, Suzanne, in a jealous rage. It turns out he didn't.
  • The Tragic Rose: Suzanne Reardon's murder became known as the Sweetheart Murder Case, due to the fact her body was found with red sweetheart roses scattered over it. It's unclear who bought the roses; Skip claims the last time he saw Suzanne she was arranging the roses in a vase and he stormed out after she refused to tell him who sent them; one theory is that they were bought by a lover, though no card identifying the sender was ever found with the flowers.
  • The Un-Favourite: Robin's father walked out on her when she was a baby, only sporadically comes to see her and is more preoccupied with his career and other children.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Jimmy Weeks has carefully cultivated his public image as a charming, generous businessman unfairly persecuted by the FBI and tax office.
  • Wham Line: After seeing a picture of a diamond pin Suzanne had worn which subsequently went missing, presumably taken by her killer as it was incriminating, Kerry can't shake the feeling it's familiar to her. Then it comes to her: "She had seen the pin before. On Grace".
  • What You Are in the Dark: When Grace overhears that Jonathan murdered Suzanne and is planning on killing Kerry and Robin to cover it up, she could've done nothing and feigned ignorance so they could keep living together peacefully. She instead shoots Jonathan dead, saying she couldn't let him hurt Kerry and Robin.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Alice Kinellen is implied to be this to Robin. According to Kerry, she doesn't like to be reminded that her husband was married and had a child before meeting her, so Robin is never invited over and has never met her half-siblings.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Whoever killed Suzanne was angry and vicious enough to use her own belt to strangle her. He later plans to murder Kerry and when she tries to get his gun off him, he strikes her hard enough to make her head bleed.
  • Would Hurt a Child:
    • Possibly Jimmy Weeks. At the very least, he's not above threatening ten year old Robin to send a message to her parents.
    • Jonathan tries to force both Kerry and Robin into his car at gunpoint. Kerry believes without a doubt that he intends to kill them both.