The Chalk Girl – Carol O’Connell

If you like crime novels with:

  • Well drawn, quirky, and interesting characters
  • Tight plotting
  • Multi-layered mystery
  • Twists you don’t see coming
  • Crisp writing

Then run – don’t walk – to your Amazon account, or local bookshop, and buy this book; it is terrific. It’s not perfect, but it’s damn fine.

In a nutshell, somebody has been rendering people unconscious, and hanging them (hidden) in a wooded area in Central Park, New York, and leaving them to die a slow, painful, death. The police are put on to this by Coco, the little red haired, blue eyed girl who has been unsuccessfully looking for her uncle; the bloodstains on her clothes trouble the adults, but not her…

The lead character is Kathy Mallory, a brilliant, beautiful – and disturbed – detective, who crushes all before her in the quest to find the killer. She has just been restored to active service after failing a psych evaluation. Her colleagues in the police force are not all working to make things easier for her, and part of the plot includes some deviations into political warfare in the police hierarchy. Another part of the plot involves an aging matriarch who wields power and influence in the city.

It’s worth stressing that although Mallory is a superb, interesting character, the author has assembled an excellent supporting cast: Riker, the old hand detective; Butler the giant genius whose unanswered love for Mallory is tested, repeatedly; Dr Slope, the weary medical man responsible for post mortem enquiries; Rabbi Kaplan, the poker playing adviser whose advice is forever ignored; and many more.

It’s also worth stressing, that the central story is dark, depressing, and sad. It probably exceeds the limits of suspension of disbelief, but it is powerful and shocking. Despite this, there are moments of comedy to lighten the load.

You probably guessed I enjoyed this book. The writing is beautifully crafted, reflecting the author’s passion for her creations, and the slightly off beat path she beats is enthralling and entertaining. Superb.