Friday, January 13, 2012

Delving Into Carol O'Connell's Mallory Series



“And Mallory’s road was run.”

That sentence at the end of Carol O’Connell’s 2006 Find Me has haunted me for nearly six years. Not because of anything devastating that occurs in Find Me (although it is filled with amazing revelations about the character Kathleen Mallory), but because I truly feared the end of O’Connell’s brilliantly scribed series. And so I’ve spent the past years diligently searching for the next O’Connell novel to appear. I was rewarded with her stand-alone mystery Bone by Bone in 2008, but nothing on the Mallory front. I was fairly sure that my worst fears for the series had come true, no more Mallory, until I happened to glance up and see an advanced reading copy of The Chalk Girl. I was giddy. I dropped the other books I was currently juggling and got sucked into the New York City, as owned by Detective Kathleen Mallory.

Here’s the deal with the Mallory series. Mallory is a bona-fide sociopath, with a mind like a computer; she also carries a big gun and has a badge. I’m taking a very complex, highly original, wholly fascinating character and reducing her to a few glib lines—doing O’Connell and her brilliant creation a great disservice, but to get Mallory, to understand the character and world O’Connell has created, you just need to read her. Start with Mallory’s Oracle and whip your way through the rest. I guarantee you too will become a fan.

The Chalk Girl, the newest book in this ever-fascinating detective series takes place several months after the events of Find Me. Here you will find my only criticism, the dramatic and revealing plot of Find Me, particularly the spectacular ending, are barely mentioned—almost as though they did not happen at all. I was really moved by Find Me, it was an epic road novel, with emotional depth, and elegant prose, not typically seen within the confines of a detective serial. To push those events aside is slap in the reader’s face and an insult to the characters and their journeys. Let’s just say that I was a bit annoyed.

After pushing aside those feelings, I was able to delve into the mystery of The Chalk Girl. First, let me give a very brief synopsis:

A child appears in Central Park, drops of blood on her shirt—from the sky she tells the police. When a body is found hanging from a bag in a tree, Mallory and her cohorts from Special Crimes are pulled into a past of wealth, blackmail, torture, and death.

True to form, the characters brought in by this murder and a series of unusual attacks that follow are well drawn and remarkably deep, considering that many of them are probably not going to appear in subsequent books. The twists and turns are truly twisted—occasionally shocking, and often moving. As a psychological suspense, The Chalk Girl hits it’s mark, as part of the Mallory series, it seems as though it has taken a step back in character development, but in all honesty, I think it’s me putting my wants for the characters far above the actual integrity and motivations of their established actions.

Despite these thoughts on my part, this is a solid mystery, with dark, disturbing undertones perfect for the psychological suspense fan. The Chalk Girl is a much anticipated and rewarding return to the world of Kathleen Mallory. I can’t recommend this series enough. Now…when’s the next book out?


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