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Well, I was going to take lots of notes and quotes while I was reading Carol O'Connell's newest book, The Chalk Girl, so I could write a fabulous post telling you how much I love this character and author.
The notes and quotes didn't happen.....because I couldn't put the book down long enough!! But I can tell you that I do love O'Connell's 'Mallory' books.
As a child, Kathleen (Kathy) Mallory was found living alone on the streets of New York City by NYPD Lieutenant Lou Markowitz. She was taken in and raised by Markowitz and his wife (with some help from Lou's fellow cops and friends). She is streetwise, cunning, an expert thief and described as 'a baby sociopath.'
Following in Lou's footsteps, Mallory (she refuses to answer to Kathy) has joined the NYPD and is paired up with Markowitz's old partner. She is a brilliant detective, but her methods and her relationships with people are strictly on her terms. No one breaks through the walls she has erected. The term sociopath is still bandied about.
In The Chalk Girl, the 10th in the series, there may be a little chink in Mallory's armour. A small girl is found wandering alone in Central Park...with blood on her tee shirt. She says the blood fell from the sky while she was looking for her uncle who turned into a tree. There is something special about Coco. She has Williams Syndrome and can't really tell them exactly where she's from or who she is. But with help from psychologist Charles Butler, they are able to decode what she's trying to tell them. Coco seems to stir something in Mallory - one wounded child recognizing another.
When Mallory locates the uncle, the case leads to places no one could have ever predicted.
And that's the beauty of O'Connell's books. You just never have an idea where the plots will lead. They're inventive, intriguing, intelligent and will keep you guessing until the end. They might keep you up late too - the crimes are bizarre and gruesome - perfect fodder for crime thriller aficionados. Each chapter opens with an excerpt from what seems to be a journal of someone called Ernest Nadler. I'm glad I read everything on the page - these entries told a story on their own that eventually met Mallory's path.
The character of Mallory continues to intrigue me. Small details about her past and small glimpses past the barriers she has erected have been slowly inserted into each new entry in this series. We still really have no idea who Kathy Mallory really is. But I am inextricably hooked by this flawed protagonist.
First Sentence: The first outcry of the morning was lost in a Manhattan mix of distant sirens, barking dogs and loud music from a car rolling by outside the park.
Coco is a young girl found wandering in Central Park. She has stars in her eyes, a desperate need to be loved, an affinity for rats, blood spatters on her clothes and claims her uncle was turned into a tree. Coco has Williams Syndrome. When a body is found suspended in a tree, Mallory claims the case and quickly, with the help of her friend, Charles Butler, becomes the girl's guardian. Does this wounded child put a chink in the armour of another female wounded, or is she the sword who severs relationships?
Trying to describe a Carol O'Connell book is hard enough. Trying to describe a Carol O'Connell Mallory book is nearly impossible. Mallory is a character you either love or you don't see the appeal of her. Mallory, rather as is the 20th Century Sherlock Holmes, is a high-functioning sociopath. At the age of seven; nearly feral, a seasoned thief and an expert at survival, she was found and taken in by police detective Lou Markowitz and his wife. Since their deaths, she has been watched over, protected and loved by Lou's friends, including her partner Riker, and Charles Butler who loves her knowing she can never love him back. Yet Mallory does 'love', but not in any conventional way. She protects the innocent, is relentless in her pursuit of criminals and unrelenting in her exacting of justice. Mallory is the type of character you wouldn't personally want to know, but find yourself drawn to and sad for. For those who may be J.D. Robb fans, Eve is a much milder version of Mallory.
On the other hand, O'Connell creates amazingly vile characters, but ones that are as far from the street-thug, gangster or classic murderer as one can get. There is more psychology than physicality behind the violence and, in some ways, that's even more disturbing.
O'Connell's plot is wickedly, wonderfully twisted. You never know where she's going; it surprises you, amuses you, shocks you, devastates you and warms you. Whether the scene be heart-breaking or vile, there is such beauty to her words.
I was told by a friend that this was one of the saddest books she'd ever read. She was right, yet O'Connell also gives us a bittersweet gift at the end. As with every book O'Connell has written, it is excellent. It also one of the most haunting of her books'although her standalone 'Bone by Bone' rivals it--and leaves you with a longing for her next book.
THE CHALK GIRL (Pol. Proc-Mallory-NYC-Cont) ' Ex
O'Connell, Carol ' 10th in series