Blind Sight – Carol O’Connell

One word review: Beautiful.

Longer review: This is crime fiction with panache: written in honeyed prose dotted with little mines that explode in the middle of some previously routine observation about Mallory – the lead in this book – and the wacky world of crime in New York. It’s crime procedural entertainment where the procedure is irregular, the plot off-the-wall, and the mix all too realistic. Mallory is a wonderful character – I think this is her twelfth outing – but the real star is the prose. The writing is beautiful, different, haunting, and powerful. It’s the type of book you read over and over, indulging yourself in the crafted text.

Plot and Stuff: The story involves a dead nun, whose body – along with three others – is dumped on the mayor’s lawn. Then there’s this blind kid, with a familial tie to one of the victims, and the hit man. Where is the blind kid? Who is the hit man? Who is paying the hit man? And what is the purpose of the killings? It’s a plot that will stretch your imagination in a book that will give you hours of great fun, action, and no little tension and surprise.

You do not need to start with the first Mallory book – Mallory’s Oracle – but if you want my recommendation, to get the best out of the books, do read them in order.

It Happens in the Dark – Carol O’Connell

Kathy Mallory is a troubled individual who happens to be a murder detective; she’s brilliant, beautiful, well groomed, and tragic all at the same time. Her idea of personal relations is unique – a combination of circumstances too complex to go in to here – but her lack of social graces has not left her short of friends and admiring colleagues. She is an enigma to whom some are drawn and from whom many are repelled. But if you buy into this character – as I do – you are rewarded with one of the finest literary detectives ever created, populating a series of novels full of concise writing, sharp dialog, and twists aplenty, both literary and plot.

This particular book is set in a New York theater where people die. Oh, and some strange, unseen character called the ghostwriter is rewriting the play, line by line. The first night’s audience is poor, the second bigger, and the third a sellout.

The reviews called it ‘A Play to Die For’ after the woman was found dead in the front row. It didn’t seem so funny the next night, when another body was found – this time the playwright’s, with his throat slashed.

When the first violent death occurs, in comes Mallory, her partner Riker, and the crew. There’s a tangle with the CSI people, a squabble over jurisdiction elsewhere, and a long unsolved case that adds to the myriad plots threads.

Slowly and exquisitely the author reveals all. It’s not a pretty picture, and you may feel you have to suspend disbelief a touch too much to get there, but it’s finely constructed and hugely entertaining. At the core are Mallory and many other fine pieces of characterization. Sure, the plot is a work of grandeur. But the characters are even better. Even those with limited walk on parts are finely crafted, in the main.

Another super novel from Carol O’ Connell.

Score: 8.5/10.

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.