Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
O'Connell's driven and sharp-edged NYPD detective Kathleen Mallory revisits a 12-year-old double murder case first investigated by her beloved adoptive father, whose death was central to her notable debut in Mallory's Oracle (1994). The murder of a second-rate performance artist in mid-performance has many associations to the earlier, grisly and still unsolved homicides, which also touched the art world. Many of the same characters are involved in both killings: J.L. Quinn, the elegantly icy critic whose niece was one of the first victims; Avril Koozeman, whose galleries were murder scenes then and now; and Emma Sue Halloran, once a critic, now a culturecrat who forces hideous art into new buildings. Mallory and her partner, Sergeant Riker, must find keys to the new killing by prying memories from these witnesses. Hampering their efforts is the desire of the police brass to keep the old case closed. O'Connell's narrative force and character development are irresistible. Although the intense and private Mallory offers little to love until late in the story, her fierce determination draws the reader into her quest. Wacky artsy types and a flawed but sympathetic Riker leaven the heavy dose of misanthropy. O'Connell also delivers a cynical, funny lesson in art marketing, which sounds here less like culture than a pretentious pyramid scheme. 50,000 first printing; major ad/promo; author tour. (June)
It's a bit awkward to face reviewing something entitled Killing Critics, but the critics in question here review art, not audiobooks. O'Connell's wicked send-up of the trendy art world begins with a murder in a gallery, which is mistaken for performance art. Is this case related to the grisly murder of another artist and a dancer 12 years earlier? Kathleen Mallory, last seen in O'Connell's acclaimed Mallory's Oracle (Putnam, 1994), thinks so. Noteworthy characters include a self-proclaimed "fashion terrorist" who barricades himself on Bloomingdale's roof, hurling insults at poorly dressed passersby through a bullhorn. Narrator Laural Merlington does a good job of managing the accents of the various characters, although her dialects sometimes fade. That is understandable, however, in light of the rapid-fire dialog. This recording will be welcomed in any public library.Reilly Reagan, Putnam Cty. Lib., Cookeville, Tenn.
Readers, beware! That sly (and oh so gifted) Carol O'Connell is just as cunning as her beautiful, near-sociopathic heroine, Kathy Mallory, creeping up on unsuspecting readers with softly caressing words and languidly flowing sentences, then sucker-punching them with shockingly explicit violence that's as vivid as it is grisly. In her third and most stunning book, O'Connell follows NYPD investigator Mallory, who, with the aid of old pals Riker, Coffey, and, of course, faithful admirer Charles Butler, is determined to solve the brutal "art as death" murder of an untalented but highly touted artist-critic. Mallory believes the case is the work of the same killer who, 12 years earlier, hacked a young artist and a talented ballerina to pieces. The case is as baffling and intricate as any Mallory has faced, with art critics, bag ladies, madmen, and mafioso playing key roles. Despite warnings from her superiors to butt out and back off, she persists and single-handedly solves the case. But as mesmerizing as the murder case is, it's heartless, soulless Mallory herself--computer genius, street fighter, provocative waif, peerless investigator, manipulative beauty---who's absolutely the star of this brilliant thriller. O'Connell's well-nigh flawless plotting and incandescent writing play important supporting roles, and the heart-stopping, devastating ending is worth a thousand curtain calls. Another triumph for this truly gifted writer!
The murder of artist Dean Starr, an inoffensive mediocrity stabbed at a reception at Avril Koozeman's trendy gallery, would be no big deal to anyoneother than fans of the more outré varieties of performance art (the body, labeled with a card reading "DEAD," fools dozens of visitors before a jaundiced rent-a-cop realizes how accurate the label is)if the performance-art angle, coupled with a much more explicit clue, didn't point the finger at an unsolved 12-year-old case. Back in the glory days of Inspector Louis Markowitz, up-and-coming artist Peter Ariel and ballet hopeful Aubry Gilette had been hacked to death with an axe and their bodies scrambled together in an even more ghoulish aesthetic exercise. Markowitz is dead now, but his adopted daughter, Sgt. Kathy Mallory, is determined to reopen the case, and nothingnot the intransigence of art critic J.L. Quinn; or the antics of columnist Andrew Bliss, who camps out on Bloomingdale's roof with a bullhorn as a fashion-advisor terrorist; or the pretensions of critic-turned-Public Works Committee head Emma Sue Hollaran, liposucked within an inch of her life; or the opposition of her corrupt boss, Chief Harry Blakelyis going to stop her.
Mallory displays such diverse skillsthe former street kid is a computer genius who dominates press conferences, never sleeps, dresses in a trice, and offers to deck an aging ballet teacherthat she's in danger of becoming a Wild Child paragon. But it's hard to resist a third case (The Man Who Cast Two Shadows, 1995, etc.) that's as blazingly original as her first two.