on August 3, 2001
I had "Great Expectations" for this book. The book comes up short of bitter/sweet. A miscalculation of Mallory's personality. Can a reader still care for this character? I have read Carol O'Connels other books and in each case have been breathless to continue to the next. Her writing is crisp,stylish and plots satisfying. Characters in her novels are usually complicated enough for me to care about them, and the web of intrigue keeps me from doing other duties until I finish her books. In the "Shell Game" I was very disappointed and in fact had a hard time finishing the book. I feel as if the author short changed the characters developed in other books. Considering what I thought a set up for complicated interest in the book "Stone Angel" Mallory does not deliver in Shell Game - weak plot. The Shell Game should be magic in verse and story. I feel Ms. O'Connell deceived the greatness of supporting characters such as Charles Butler and Riker. Strong characters in Stone Angel their loyalty was betrayed by a weak sub-plot in SG. Ms. O'Connell herself proved that digging up Mallory's past was not necessarily a good thing, since the next book did not measure up. Is there hope for her character after this?
on February 4, 2001
I've read all of the Carol O'Connell books featuring Mallory, etc. Having always had an interest in magic, I thought this would be a great read. "Tedious" is the word many other reviewers have used and I agree. I really lost interest in how and why Louisa had been killed 60 years before and which of the magicians were guilty then and now for the present murder(s). Thank goodness it was not the first O'Connell book I have read. Not up to the standard of those great books that preceded it.
on July 16, 2004
This fifth book in the Mallory series was the best one I've read yet and I love the fact that each one of these books stand alone. Instead of repeating whole sections of previous books to fill the reader in, O'Connell sums up everything you need to know in one or two sentences here and there. She is truly a gifted writer. This story finds Mallory in the middle of a revenge murder surrounded by magicians. The regular cast appears yet they are much more in the background this time as Mallory is front and center. For the first time the reader becomes much more emphatic with her character as we see a softer side and watch Mallory evolve into this more humane person (she opens up and shares a deep dark secret - her pysch evaluation as a child - with another character and we also see how hurt she is when those closest to her don't believe her). However, just when we think Mallory has changed and gone all sappy on us, the plot ends with Mallory being pure Mallory which is pure genius. I've always thought Mallory was a misunderstood character as she does stand for moral principles and maybe you have have to be somewhat cold to be willing to go to the lengths she does when choosing between right and wrong. We even understand why Mallory is the way she is given her background......and although there are no obvious "Stone Angel" references, the revelations of Mallory's past in that book have visibly and profoundly affected Mallory as her story continues in this murder mystery. Speaking of which, I'm thrilled the whole haunting love story of Louisa and Malakhai was the focal point as it was always hinted at previously and the real narrative was fascinating. This author knows how to write a spellbinding tale.
on February 19, 2002
I remember how much I really enjoyed the first couple of books by O'Connell. She introduced the female character Mallory, who is so multifaceted in personality and characteristics due to her very different childhood. Up til this book, both the characterization of people and plot development were very well handled by O'Connell. This time the author came up short. I don't know why. O'Connell doesn't churn these mysteries out as fast as she can like some other female writers of the mystery genre.
This book is not a bad read. Compared to many other authors who do churn out mysteries on a bi-annual basis, this book is a masterpiece. Yet, if the reader compares this book to O'Connell's first few books, they will be a mite disappointed.
There are way too many characters. Not only was the plot very complicated due to it having to do with WWII and a group of magicians, but there were too many characters to keep track of. On top of that, it is obvious O'Connell did a lot of research into certain illusions, which for someone who has no background in magic ended up being very confusing.
More was revealed about Mallory's background and how she thinks. This was probably the best part of the book. Yet the development of her two 'buddies', Riker the cop and Charles, the man who is Mallory's friend, was almost absent. They were placed in the book as an afterthought. There were six magicians originally, and though all were present during WWII, in the future, the now that exists for Mallory and gang, two are dead (and includes the 'original' murder victim), and the rest seem to be involved in a conspiracy. Not only do we find out that there was a much earlier murder victim, but the readers are expected to keep track of the variety of illusions, the history of all these men, and their backdrop (which was WWII). It ended up being too much, and I had a difficult time keeping track of everything.
I am hoping this is a one-time fluke. Not every book can be a hole-in-one, and this book can be enjoyed for the intelligence with which it is written. I would recommend readers go to her other books, if they want a better example of what O'Connell is capable of.
University of Pittsburgh
on July 15, 2001
When a magician is killed in a stage accident, only Mallory believes it to have been murder. In order to solve that crime and prevent another, she's drawn into a relationship with a charismatic elderly magician who forces her to question basic elements of her own nature.
_Stone Angel_ (as has been stated by other reviewers) was a breathtaking book. The problem with it was that it was very difficult to follow. While I don't want to see too much change in Mallory (_Stone Angel_ showed the potential for change, but didn't provide a personality magic wand), I also didn't expect to see this book written as if the events in that book had never happened.
There were many interesting and well-written characters in _Shell Game_, but I found the plot itself a little bit weak. Magicians are such an easy target, and there were a few too many stereotypes pulled out of the bag in this book. It's a bit like a mystery written about the theater, the writer really has to earn the subject matter. O'Connell doesn't.
Additionally, the mystery became so complex at a given point that I found it difficult to keep caring about who did what to whom when.
on May 25, 2001
In _Mallory's Oracle_, Carol O'Connell introduced us to a unique detective - Mallory, a beautiful, near-sociopathic genius with a mysterious past. Somehow, O'Connell made the character and her friends really sing, and the series took off. Book by book, Mallory tracked down a series of eccentric, exceptional criminals, either from a sense of tidiness or possibly some buried sense of justice. Book by book, Mallory gave some of the people around her, and the readers, small hints into the trauma that shaped her. (Again, it sounds corny when I write it, but it was great. I can't explain it - that's just O'Connell's gift.)
In the previous Mallory book, _Stone Angel_, Mallory and several of the supporting characters end up in her home town, confront her past, and bring justice to the people responsible for her childhood. The book was terrific, second only to _Judas Child_, and seemed to open up the possibility of some kind of radical character growth for Mallory.
Now, we get _Shell Game_, and it turns out that the shell O'Connell picked was empty this time. This reads like a Mallory idea from three books ago. Mallory is back exactly to her old self - cold, remote, merciless, brilliant. Ok, fine, but it's not mysterious anymore. We know why she is the way she is, and if she can't change or grow, even a little, then why read more books?
With all that said, the book is still far better than most mysteries, and draws on the typical O'Connell bag of tricks. Mallory must solve a murder/accident involving a magic trick gone wrong, and matches wits with an exotic group of magicians hiding a secret from the distant past. She confronts the possibility of romance with one or more men almost her equal, and manipulates people to solve the mystery.
In fact, this book is almost an exact copy of _Killing Critics_, with magicians substituted for the artists and art critics in the prior book. That is probably the core of my dissatisfaction; Mallory had the chance to incorporate the events of _Stone Angel_ into her persona, but instead took two steps back, and had the same almost-romance with a potential killer and the same "stay away from me" relationship with her friends as she had several books ago. In the end, _Shell Game_ is a well-written disappointment.
on September 25, 2000
I did not find this installment disappointing like the other reviewer. Kathy Mallory is one of the most interesting protagonist I have every read. Carol O'Connell has created a hero that you want to dislike, but you can't help but feel sorry and like her. Mallory brings out all your emotions. I thank the author for not changing Mallory too much after Stone Angel. The changes are there, you have to remember, Mallory would not be able to change too much quickly. Thank you, Ms. O'Connell for staying true to Mallory.
In Shell Game, Mallory has met her match. With a personally that sees in black and white, what does she do in the world of magic? With magicians as foes, Mallory becomes a fish out of water, or is she? Ms. O'Connell creates a world of illusion in Shell Game. The villain(s) has spent his life practicing misdirection, trickery and lies. Mallory has too, but is 50 years short on experience against these guys. Oh, what a tangled web they can weave. I couldn't figure out what was going on till the very last few pages. What a wonderful read, Ms. O'Connell's pose is top notch. I love the way this author writes. So different, yet flowing and easy to read. I always set aside blocks of time to read her books. You'll not want to put her down. You will want to stay with it till the end. I would suggest that if you are interested in this series, start with the first one, Mallory's Oracle. Ms. O'Connell develops Mallory over the course of all her books. To miss one, means not understanding a portion of Mallory. Mallory is the most complex character I have ever read. So, get started and enjoy!
on August 12, 2000
The author has given us another Mallory mystery, set in Manhattan just before Thanksgiving, as the retired master magicians gather to preform in the Holiday of Magic celebration. Someone in this group of eccentric magicians has murder on their mind.
Malackhai is back, bringing the phantom Louisa with him. If possible he is even more eccentric then when we met him in 'The Man Who Casts Two Shadows'. Is her presence just a part of his act or is he really crazy. (And who is always drinking her drinks and smoking those cigarettes without anyone noticing.)
Like the game it is named after we get tantalizing glimpses into the past of Uncle Max, Charles, and the other characters. Did the magicians die due to "misadventure" or murder? What does a bunch of older magicians, and the French Underground have in common? Mallory even has trouble figuring it out. And you'll have to read it if you want to know. This author is a master at creating beliveable personalities, illusion, and misdirection. You will be guessing all the way to the end.
on March 16, 2000
I just finished reading SHELL GAME last night, and I'm afraid that I'm one of Ms. O'Connell's fans who felt disappointed with this latest book in her exceptional Mallory series. STONE ANGEL left me stunned with its richness and depth--and I couldn't *wait* to read the next book in this series. I read fictional series for 3 reasons--the writing, the plot, and the development and growth of the reoccuring characters. For me, SHELL GAME fulfilled two out of the three. The writing is exquisite, and the plot held my attention--but Mallory in this book was the same Mallory that we met way back in MALLORY'S ORACLE. But she is *not* the same person after what happened to her in STONE ANGELS, and I was deeply disappointed that the author did not give us the Mallory who had to have been deeply effected by the events in STONE ANGEL. Is there or is there not going to be a growing relationship between Mallory and Charles? And after the resolutions of STONE ANGEL, why does she continue to call herself "Mallory." I had SO many questions following STONE ANGEL, and I was crushed that none of them were addressed in this book. I do hope that Carol O'Connell delves more into the character of Mallory in the next book.
on September 15, 1999
Shell Game was not what I expected in the latest installment of O'Connell's Mallory series. Previous books fit neatly into continuity, and one seemed to naturally flow into the other. Stone Angel, for example, made sense where it was placed in the series.
Shell Game does not seem to have a specific place in the timeline. I don't see it as specifically follwing Stone Angel, or even as directly or indirectly, makeing references to this earlier book. I'm left with a feeling of, "Nice book, but where does it fit?"
O'Connell's descriptions of the magic routines are a lot of fun to read. They are well described, and show many of the dangers of working on stage.
The characters are not so well described. Even the weekly poker games, something I usually look forward to, fall a little flat. The characters don't seem as well developed as they were in previous books.
As always, there were moments of humor. The parade, and subsequent fallout from it, are highly enjoyable moments in the book. O'Connell did a nice job with that and managed, unlike many, not to beat readers up with the humor of the situation.
This was an okay book, I give it an average rating. This is kind of disappointing, I really enjoyed the first four and thought I saw constant improvement. Shell Game falls short of that goal.