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Killing Critics (1996)
by Carol O'Connell
No current Talk conversations about this book.
sociopath NYPD detective solves old case
Carol O'Connell is hard to put down. The pleasure of the read is enhanced by Putnam's fine binding. Mallory is saved from being a completely unbelievable characters by the fine cast of those around her, brought to life and well developed with great nuance by O'Connell. Her plotting is also excellent. I wonder how many other people out there in this vast and diverse country share my experience in reading the Mallory novels, that of great enjoyment with just a bit of cringing about that classic NYC, well egocentric view as if from the very center of the country, if not the universe.
This was a good mystery which didn't leave much food for thought. I had trouble believing that a detective sergeant could run the C of D's out of office. I had trouble believing that a man could mutilate corpses in that fashion and remain rational and functional. But there were many pleasures, especially seeing how the charismatic Mallory's friends (enablers?) continued to function as her support system.
This book is one of a series of books by Carol O'Connell about a beautiful, damaged, maverick, and almost sociopathic detective named Kathleen Mallory (who insists on being called simply "Mallory"), and the people that love her despite her flaws: Charles, an intelligent, rich, but ugly family friend; Lou, the cop that takes her in; and Riker, her adopted father's partner. The relationships that develop between these characters as they solve crimes together are the focus of the series.
This story (the third in the series), has Mallory investigating a murder which has links to a case that her adoptive father, Lou, worked on years previously. Another interesting and touching story in the series. Carol O' Connell's writing is lyrical.
Many years have gone by since someone first recommended the Kathy Mallory series to me and I’ve finally read one. The ‘will you like it’ predictor on LibraryThing also thought I would. Granted, it was not the first in the series and I usually start at the beginning, but I’m not impressed and I doubt I will read another.
First of all there’s the problem of Mallory herself. No, let me switch to calling her Kathy because she seems to hate it so. I loved it when she would correct people and they’d go on calling her Kathy. She exposed her buttons so easily that I wouldn’t have been able to help pressing them either. For a person who’s supposed to have no emotions, she sure shows a lot of them; anger, frustration, hostility, pride, malicious glee. They all add up to a person who is not in the least likable, so once again the author has to make her so stunningly beautiful that men become her devoted slaves no matter how many times she attacks them, sets them up and screws them over.
This is pretty much all she does during the whole novel. Her police work is sloppy at best, non-existent at worst. Every new development is some brilliant leap or intuition and really shows up the author’s lack of procedural or detection knowledge. And of course Kathy’s an expert in everything, never loses an argument or a fight and stays thin to the point of emaciation and has incredible physical prowess despite never exercising or training.
Another thing the author seems to be clueless about is sociopathy. She must have heard about it somewhere in passing and thought how cool it would be to have a character who was a sociopath. All well and good. Then she made her a cop. A cop. Really. Exactly why would a soulless, emotionless, conscienceless person become a cop? How exactly would a person with no conscience function successfully as a law-enforcement official? Come to think of it, this shows how little the author knows about cops, too. There are so many better, more immediate ways of positioning oneself in society to both serve one’s ends and be in a position to manipulate and deceive. Being a cop is too dangerous and requires one to know right from wrong. Sociopaths do not like to put themselves at risk and have no empathy with society’s moral fabric, both requirements of law enforcement.
Which brings me back to the emotions thing. People in the book who supposedly know her best describe her as not having any, or at least having a pool so shallow as to not endanger even an ant with drowning. But then she shows remorse over having hurt someone and performs an apology gesture wrapped in destruction and violence. She also lovingly cleans Riker’s filth-encrusted apartment and spares his hideous plastic Jesus nightlight. Oy vey. On what planet? This last act was reasonably selfless and provided no leverage or edge for her to use against Riker and so in the context of sociopathy, makes no sense.
Then there’s the awkward phrasing that is so frequent that I laughed out loud several times over it. Here’s an example; “he smashed the phone into his pocket”. Smashed? What the hell was in there already, a brick? Another gem; “his white-gloved hand was a bloody rag of ripped cloth and flesh”. Ew. Clunky and ew. The whole thing is littered with stuff like this. Took me right of the story which was unfortunate because it was an interesting one despite involving fawning idiots and abrasive fools. What a waste. Wait, there was one bright spot – when Kathy’s childhood home burned down. Yeah, that was it.
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Wikipedia in English (1)
NYPD sergeant Kathleen Mallory - computer genius, street fighter, provocative waif, peerless investigator, manipulative beauty - is the gorgeous, near-sociopathic heroine of this knife-edged suspense novel. Along with old pals, Ricker, Coffey, and faithful admirer Charles Butler, Mallory 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. Baffling and intricate, Mallory wades through art critics, bag ladies, madmen and mafioso alike in getting to the bottom of these crimes. Secrets, very deep and very dark, emerge and strike closer and closer to home. By the end, she will come to know the truth - but the truth may be the most dangerous illusion of all.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)813.54 — Literature English (North America) American fiction 20th Century 1945-1999
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