Tuesday, February 21, 2012

New (to me): Carol O'Connell

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I tend to read a little bit of everything.  In some cases, I come into a series in the middle.  Sometimes, each novel stands alone well enough and gives enough background on characters and relationships well enough that I don't feel lost.  Sometimes, I'm not so lucky. 

In the case of Carol O'Connell's latest Kathleen Mallory mystery, The Chalk Girl, I was very lucky on so many levels.  While catalogued as a mystery, this novel gives a feeling more like a good suspense novel--quirky main characters, great atmosphere, puzzling bits of subtext that has you following and backtracking like you're after a trail of breadcrumbs.  And although a dozen Mallory titles came before it, this novel stands alone beautifully.  So much so, in fact, that I can't wait to go back and start at the beginning of the series, and that's not something that happens very often these days.  Call me a jaded reader, but it's true!

If you're interested in starting at the beginning of the series, the first title is Mallory's Oracle.  But if you want to sneak ahead, or are just looking for a great suspenseful mystery, here's the skinny on The Chalk Girl.  A little girl is found wandering in Central Park, looking for her Uncle Red, who she says turned into a tree.  People are pitying and skeptical, until they realize that the stains on the child's shirt are blood--and they look up to find a man trussed, gagged and hanging from a tree branch.  Mallory, back to work in Special Crimes after several months' leave, finds a kindred spirit in the little girl, a connection between lost, damaged souls.  As Mallory and her squad work to identify Uncle Red, they find themselves caught up in a series of murders that dates back fifteen years, clouded by lies and blackmail and a particular breed of cruelty that only Mallory could identify. 

Why, why did it take me this long to start reading this author?  The good news?  A dozen titles just waiting to be devoured.  Expect to see this series crop up in my reading challenge posts for the next few months!

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