Carol O'Connell,
Mallory #1: Mallory's Oracle
(Jove, 1995)

Carol O'Connell,
Mallory #10: The Chalk Girl
(Putnam, 2012)

This collection of books should never have grabbed my attention, but somehow the latest book in the series, The Chalk Girl did and subsequently I had to seek out all of its predecessors.

The central character to the series is Cathy Mallory and she surfaces initially in Mallory's Oracle. What a character she is! Don't be put off by my initial description: she is a rounded character despite a seemingly super-heroine status. I promise you this is a sort of fantasy character that on closer examination proves all too real.

Naturally Mallory -- she will snap your head off if you call her anything else -- is young and beautiful, and her colleagues in crime detection fit into the familiar types. But there the similarity to a thousand crime characters ends.

She was a street kid rescued by a cop and his wife. The skills she developed on the streets are ingrained and are turned to good effect. Her stealth is almost supernatural, but we all know people who have that ability to some extent. She just magnifies it.

She is amoral in that anything she might take over (or, as we might say, "steal") is legitimately hers. She is a computer whiz and uses this to gather any and all information as if it were hers by right.

In the first book we find her tracking the killer of her adoptive father, who died in pursuit of a supposed serial killer of elderly ladies. OK, that sounds like typical crime fare, but author Carol O'Connell adds enough twists to addle even the most confirmed or even jaded reader of the genre.

In The Chalk Girl, I thought I had entered Stephen King or even James Herbert territory. If you hate or fear rats, keep the light on for the first few chapters. But this is a crime rather than a horror tale. No, it's more than that, it is a psychological thriller of the highest order with bullying, sadistic children, plot twists and even a genuine syndrome that I had to look up to find that it actually exists.

Be warned that if you read either of these books there are eight more in the series to date that you will just have to seek out and devour.

book review by
Nicky Rossiter

22 September 2012

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

Click on a cover image
to make a selection.

what's new