CAROL O’CONNELL – Mallory’s Oracle. Kathleen Mallory #1. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, hardcover, 1994. Jove, paperback, 1995.

   O’Connell is a painter turned novelist, and this is her first. Putnam thinks it’s going to be a good one. They paid a lot of money for it, and it’s already been published in England and sold to several other countries.

   Kathleen Mallory was a street kid and she was taken in at the age of 12 by a NYPD cop and his wife. Now she’s a Sergeant in the same department, and her father in all the real sense of the word has been murdered at the same time as the latest victim is killed by a serial killer who preys on old women.

   The Department places her on compassionate leave, but compassion is not a word she understands very well. She’s beautiful, a crack shot and a computer whiz, and underneath a thin veneer is a tough and nearly as amoral as the child she used to be. Mercy is another word that has little relevance to her as she begins tracking her prey.

   O’Connell may be this year’s Minette Walters, and this could easily be an Edgar winner for either First or Best Novel. Yes, I thought it was that good. It’s a powerfully written book, and often beautifully so. An Example: “She lay still in the body and quiet.”

   And watch for the passage about the insane pigeon — surely none of the more unlikely subjects upon which to base a memorable paragraph, but there it was. The third person narrative is mostly from Mallory’s viewpoint, though there are several illuminating shifts.

   The plot is convoluted, with maybe one or two too many threads to the skein, but the book’s strengths lie in O’Connell’s prose and the vivid characterizations of Mallory and a number of others. It isn’t a perfect book, but it’s a very, very strong one, and I think the field has another star here, folks.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #14, August 1994.

      The Kathleen Mallory series —

1. Mallory’s Oracle (1994)
       — 1995 Anthony Award — First Novel (Nominee)
       — 1995 Dilys Award — Mystery Novel (Nominee)
       — 1995 Edgar Allan Poe Award — First Novel (Nominee)
2. The Man Who Lied to Women (1995) aka The Man Who Cast Two Shadows
3. Killing Critics (1995)
4. Flight of the Stone Angel (1997) aka Stone Angel
5. Shell Game (1999)
6. Crime School (2002)
7. The Jury Must Die (2003) aka Dead Famous
8. Winter House (2004)
9. Find Me (2006) aka Shark Music
10. The Chalk Girl (2012)
11. It Happens in the Dark (2012)
12. Blind Sight (2016)