2012 · 4 stars · mystery · thriller

review; the chalk girl

Title: The Chalk Girl (Kathleen Mallory #10)
Author: Carol O’Connell
Pub. Date: January, 2012
Summary: The little girl appeared in Central Park: red-haired, blue-eyed, smiling, perfect-except for the blood on her shoulder. It fell from the sky, she said, while she was looking for her uncle, who turned into a tree. Poor child, people thought. And then they found the body in the tree.

For Mallory, newly returned to the Special Crimes Unit after three months’ lost time, there is something about the girl that she understands. Mallory is damaged, they say, but she can tell a kindred spirit. And this one will lead her to a story of extraordinary crimes: murders stretching back fifteen years, blackmail and complicity and a particular cruelty that only someone with Mallory’s history could fully recognize. In the next few weeks, she will deal with them all . . . in her own way.
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Rating:

New York City was a quick-change artist and the good old days were always six minutes ago.

I had received an ARC of The Chalk Girl from the publishers (thank you!!) and couldn’t wait to dive right in. The summary instantly had me hooked, but until I sat down and started reading, I hadn’t realized just how much I’d like this one. One thing that originally worried me was that this is the tenth book in the series. …and I had never read a single one. I wasn’t sure if I’d be completely and utterly lost, but that wasn’t the case one bit. There’s a bit of Mallory’s backstory that I’m sure I’d understand more about had I followed the series, but apart from that, this is one where you can jump in at any time.

The late Louis Markowitz had once described his foster child as a world-class thief, born to steal, and the policeman had said this with some degree of pride, adding, “What a kid.”

Kathleen Mallory – known strictly as Mallory – is a NYPD detective and she’s definitely an interesting character. She returns to the squad after an unannounced three-month leave. No one knows where she went nor why and Mallory isn’t telling. My feelings about her were very conflicted. Overall, I really enjoyed her! She’s so different than characters I normally read and that was a very welcome breath of fresh air. However, some of her actions didn’t sit well with me. She truly plays by her own rules.

When the doors open, we run like crazy so we can grab chairs at the end of a corner table, a safe place with two walls at our backs. We call it the Fox Hole. Everyone else calls it the Losers’ Table. Even losers new to the school know to come here. They see kids in glasses or braces, the lumpy, shapeless ones and the pencil-shaped uncool, and every loser says to himself – These are my people.

The book opens with the discovery of bodies strung up in trees. Coco is a tiny eight year-old girl with Williams syndrome (there was an episode of Law & Order SVU that featured a young girl with the same syndrome and the entire time I read this book, I thought of her and that episode). She was the sole witness to the murder, but her disability makes it difficult to pin down a suspect.

Ultimately, it becomes known that this is a murder fifteen years in the making. Although the book is entirely in the present day, there are flashes of the past told through a diary of a boy who was brutally murdered, Ernest Nadler. Despite being dead the entire novel, Ernie was one of my favorite characters and one I felt I really got to know. There was such a large cast of characters, at times I lost track of who’s who – Is that person a bad guy? Am I supposed to be cheering you on? More than once I felt the need to create a list in order to remember everyone and the role they played. That was the book’s sole downfall for me, the sheer number of characters.

The entered the private office of the hospital administrator, a man with a very large desk and a small moustache, a man who amazed one and all by the act of walking upright in the absence of a spine.

Ms. O’Connell is a wonderful writer. Her wording is absolutely beautiful. When I read I like to keep a small notepad by me (unless I’m reading on my Nook, in which case, I take full advantage of the highlight function) in order to jot down passages I love. This book had a ridiculous amount. Gorgeous, gorgeous, writing. ♥

And there was one other difference between Toby the child and his grown-up self: He had found a way to be still. His feet did not tap, and there was no tabletop drumming of his fingertips.
He had lost his music.

Although I blindly went into this book, I devoured it. The entire time I read it I couldn’t stop talking about it to family and friends. I’ve never read a book with a character quite like Mallory – and it was fantastic. Even though I love mysteries, I can normally figure out who the killer/thief/etc is long before it’s revealed, but it wasn’t the case with this novel. It’s so complex and so many characters and motives are intertwined; I loved it. The enormous amount of characters became a little confusing at times, but in the end I adored The Chalk Girl and will definitely be picking up more of Carol O’Connell’s books!

Quotes I liked:

The man was built like a refrigerator that could walk and talk; the five o’clock shadow of his bear appeared at nine every morning; and he had the most brutal face that God ever gave to a detective – all of which made him invaluable during interrogations.

And now they were off on a wild ride with a cabbie from the school of Oh-was-that-a-red-light?

Apart from the kitchenette, every bit of wall space was lined with books. These volumes had been accumulated by generations of Driscols in hiding. They were all works of fiction – escape hatches.

Spacey was his state of mind and Toby Wilder floated through his days in the lighter gravity of Mars. Silent days. Airless. Sounds of the city were filtered through the cotton wadding of his brain on painkillers, and a waitress from his homeworld had to ask him twice-“Same old thing?”

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4 thoughts on “review; the chalk girl

  1. Thanks for an informative review! I had checked this book out online and was saddened that it was part of a long series and I couldn’t see myself reading all the back ones to catch up. Now I know, because of your same situation, that I can read this without worries. Thanks, Rita

    1. You’re very welcome! I was shocked when I realized it was the tenth book in the series. But don’t worry – you’ll be fine when you read it. The only thing that confused me was a little bit about the main character, but enough information was given that I was able to follow along without any trouble.

  2. I hate mystery series where you have to start from the beginning to get what is going on – glad to know that isn’t the case here.

    I’m definitely intrigued by the synopsis of this one, definitely not a set of books I’ve heard of before.

    Between the synopsis and your review, I definitely need to check this out – glad you got a copy for review.

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