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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Carol O'Connell's suspense novels earn critical praise and increasing sales with each new release. Mallory's Oracle and Stone Angel are two of her best, but she's topped them all now. Judas Child is a beautiful literary thriller, the kind of story that is almost delicious in the exquisite game played out by the hunter and hunted within it. O'Connell has a mastery of prose and an almost poetic sense of scene. Yet her story is suspenseful to the end, and she has created one of the most fascinating characters I've encountered in a while in her forensic psychologist, Ali Cray. But the book is not Ali's so much as it is Rouge Kendall's.
Rouge is a cop, and he's been called in on what at first appears to be the case of two children who've gone missing. But the missing-persons case turns to murder, and it recalls for Rouge the murder of his sister Susan, which took place when he was a boy. That loss was the defining moment in Rouge's life, and it changed everything for his family. Rouge considers himself somewhat responsible for Susan's death, since he had been her protector. But curiously, the recent murder of a little girl begins to remind him more and more of the murder of his sister 17 years earlier.
Then Rouge meets Ali Cray. Ali is no ordinary beauty. Although she is lovely to look at, one side of her face carries a large scar, almost a grotesque mockery of a smile emanating from the edge of her mouth. The fact that she's never done anything to cover up the scar indicates that she also has no ordinary mind. Ali studies murder and its meanings, and she scentsthelarger context of the murder of a little girl just before Christmas. She tries to convince Rouge that this is the same pattern that the killer used to murder his sister. In fact, Ali was a classmate of his sister's, and one of her special interests in this new case has to do with Paul Marie, the man who sits in prison for the murder of Susan Kendall from so many years ago. Marie was the priest at the small parochial school that Susan Kendall and Ali Cray attended. When he was convicted of Susan's murder, Rouge felt justice was done, but now, after this new murder, he's not so sure. One child, the murdered girl's playmate, is still missing, and Ali Cray is positive that the murderer is playing the same game he played years ago. The killer's game is to call out one child as bait for the other, then murder the first, and keep the other until Christmas day, for a second murder. Ali has a deeper conviction, that there are those around her who know the identity of the killer but have kept it secret for unfathomable reasons.
As Ali and Rouge get closer to the murderer, and as they race to save the child still within his clutches, it becomes apparent that the most monstrous secret is still to come. Ali will put herself into the hands of a killer in order to both understand him and save the child's life.
Carol O'Connell is brilliant. Judas Child has gorgeous moments, even within the most terrifying scenes. Judas Child is a mystery within a thriller and should be read by fans of both genres, as well as those who love great fiction of any genre.