LJ's Reviews > The Chalk Girl

The Chalk Girl by Carol O'Connell
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Mar 08, 12

bookshelves: contemporary_post_1945, female_author, new_york_city, new_york_state, mystery, police_procedural
Read in February, 2012

First Sentence: The first outcry of the morning was lost in a Manhattan mix of distant sirens, barking dogs and loud music from a car rolling by outside the park.

Coco is a young girl found wandering in Central Park. She has stars in her eyes, a desperate need to be loved, an affinity for rats, blood spatters on her clothes and claims her uncle was turned into a tree. Coco has Williams Syndrome. When a body is found suspended in a tree, Mallory claims the case and quickly, with the help of her friend, Charles Butler, becomes the girl's guardian. Does this wounded child put a chink in the armour of another female wounded, or is she the sword who severs relationships?

Trying to describe a Carol O’Connell book is hard enough. Trying to describe a Carol O’Connell Mallory book is nearly impossible. Mallory is a character you either love or you don’t see the appeal of her. Mallory, rather as is the 20th Century Sherlock Holmes, is a high-functioning sociopath. At the age of seven; nearly feral, a seasoned thief and an expert at survival, she was found and taken in by police detective Lou Markowitz and his wife. Since their deaths, she has been watched over, protected and loved by Lou’s friends, including her partner Riker, and Charles Butler who loves her knowing she can never love him back. Yet Mallory does “love”, but not in any conventional way. She protects the innocent, is relentless in her pursuit of criminals and unrelenting in her exacting of justice. Mallory is the type of character you wouldn’t personally want to know, but find yourself drawn to and sad for. For those who may be J.D. Robb fans, Eve is a much milder version of Mallory.

On the other hand, O’Connell creates amazingly vile characters, but ones that are as far from the street-thug, gangster or classic murderer as one can get. There is more psychology than physicality behind the violence and, in some ways, that’s even more disturbing.

O’Connell’s plot is wickedly, wonderfully twisted. You never know where she’s going; it surprises you, amuses you, shocks you, devastates you and warms you. Whether the scene be heart-breaking or vile, there is such beauty to her words.

I was told by a friend that this was one of the saddest books she’d ever read. She was right, yet O’Connell also gives us a bittersweet gift at the end. As with every book O’Connell has written, it is excellent. It also one of the most haunting of her books—although her standalone “Bone by Bone” rivals it--and leaves you with a longing for her next book.

THE CHALK GIRL (Pol. Proc-Mallory-NYC-Cont) – Ex
O’Connell, Carol – 10th in series
Putnam, 2011

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