The Chalk Girl by Carol O’Connell

Carol O’Connell’s Mallory returns to take on a case with nonstop twisting intrigues.

The little girl in Central Park has red hair, starry blue eyes and a dazzling smile; she reminds people of an elf or a fairy, and tells stories of blood raining out of the sky and an uncle who turned into a tree, and demands hugs from everyone she meets. The fairy tale halts abruptly, however, with the discovery of a body in a tree, hogtied and seemingly dead. And it’s not the only one. Coco, as she calls herself, presents a perplexing mystery. Where did she come from? Who does she belong to? Where did she get the strange explanations for the blood on her shirt and, most important, what kind of a witness will she make, if the NYPD ever manages to solve the homicides?

Detective Mallory, the protagonist of nine previous novels, is just back from three months of unauthorized down time and is none too stable herself; she and Coco may have more in common than meets the eye. But the case quickly grows bigger than a wandering child and a series of well-planned murders. Conspiracies and deceits connect Coco with the upper echelons of political power in the city, from high society to the DA’s office, even the police department–and Mallory’s investigation will reveal a chilly tale of torment stretching back 15 years. Unlike the spritely Coco, though, Mallory is a terrifying force to be reckoned with. Her methods are cold, merciless and conniving; her colleagues doubt she even has a heart. If nothing else, Coco’s tormenters can expect justice at Mallory’s hands.

This review originally ran in the January 20, 2012 issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. To subscribe, click here, and you’ll receive two issues per week of book reviews and other bookish fun!

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