The Chalk Girl (Kathleen Mallory, #10)
by Carol O’Connell
Both Riker and Mallory are in fine form in this story, which explores the relationships between children and adults. The childrens’ perspective is handled partially through diary entries at the beginning of each chapter, detailing the increasing horror of a child being bullied. It’s also magnified through the eyes of a little girl with an unusual condition who is the witness to a murder that is connected to the boy in the diary. Because the witness is an orphan and has very delicate sensibilities, she’s placed in the care of Mallory’s friend, psychologist Charles Butler.
In this story, Charles is as much at odds with Mallory as he has ever been, placing his concern for the child ahead of Mallory – not the usual for him. Not only is Mallory in a tug of war over the child with Charles, but she knows her partner Riker is keeping something from her and more than one of her late father’s friends are also being less than helpful. None of this keeps her from forging ahead trying to solve the murders, deal with the Top Cop’s stand-in, or work around the Chief of Detectives who wants Mallory and Riker to get rid of the stand-in, or else…
Things tend to move quickly in Mallory’s world, which keeps you turning pages to find out what in the heck will happen next. The prose, as always, is straightforward, and O’Connell is definitely not the go-to writer for subtlety. Rather than let you sift through the emotions between the lines, she pretty much tells you what’s on everyone’s mind except for Mallory’s. Beautiful and enigmatic, the detective strides through her NYC environment like a Titan, leaving a confusion of friends, victims, and collateral damage in her wake.
More than once I found myself shaking my head over the things people will do to one another, but there were moments of tenderness and also more than a few to make me smile. I don’t know how O’Connell does it, but even after several books, Mallory – who seems to change little and always comes out on top – is never boring.