Blind Sight,

by Carol O'Connell

Carol O'Connell's Blind Sight, I can report with a sigh of relief, is one of the better Kathy Mallory novels. O'Connell is back in good form. After the silliness of It Happens in the Dark, Blind Sight is a return to everything that makes Mallory novels must-haves for mystery fans. In some ways, it even measures up to O'Connell's masterpiece, the standalone Judas Child

The crime is in your face and yet baffling (and the final explanation, I have to admit, is a real head-scratcher). The plot teems with perfectly believable sociopaths (though one wonders what Ed Koch ever did to Carol O'Connell...), the humor is mordant and always on target, the suspense absolutely page-churning. Kathy is as scary as ever, but the novel ends with a touch of humanity almost as sweet as a jar of fireflies. Even if you know O'Connell won't let Jonah Quill die (meaning you haven't read Judas Child), his fate remains at the center of the novel from beginning to end. And the most interesting character, whose presence tints every scene, dies on page 3. Great stuff.

O'Connell borrows from her own personal repertoire of puppets and schtick: We get a jeopardy reminscient of her masterpiece, Judas Child, a couple of characters miming the whacked-out oddity of Andrew the Fashion Terrorist (Killing Critics, a crippled boy with the courage of Sadie Green (Judas Child) and Ernest Nadler (The Chalk Girl), cameos by the stalwart, loving and exasperated poker club, Kathy's savagery guarding a heart of at least silver, if not gold. Here, finally, Charles Butler seems to have grasped that his love for Kathy is a pointless, however unquenchable, infatuation; and if Mallory was going to grow a soul, it's past due, so we can forget that and just watch the spider hunt.

Why would someone contract to kill four random people, drop their bodies on the doorstep of the mayor of New York, and mail him their ripped out hearts? Why was the fourth victim, a nun with a complicated past, killed differently than the others? Is it a coincidence that her blind nephew was kidnapped at the scene of her murder? And most important, can Mallory and colleagues find the boy, Jonah Quill, before he is murdered and his heart mailed to the mayor?

The previous novel in this series, It Happens in the Dark, was just flat-out embarrassing, with so much of what made Mallory and her story interesting reduced to rather mean-spirited schtick. With Blind Sight, O'Connell regains her balance, and the result is almost flawless. "Almost," because the novel is driven by two things — the suspense about Jonah's fate, and the conundrum of the motive. Ultimately, looking back after catching my breath, I have to say neither is resolved very credibly. The motive explains what happened, but it's so convoluted, in addition to being unlikely, that most readers will zip past, at most muttering "Whatever." More to the emotional point, O'Connell spends 360 pages cranking up the suspense about Jonah's fate, and things are settled with a touch of pure romantic silliness. As Mallory would have said, around page 360, "Yeah, right."

Kathy Mallory is Kathy Mallory. Imitations may come and go (I'm looking at you, P. J. Tracy), but this is the real thing. The very last page gives us no answers to the dark puzzle that is Kathy Mallory, but it offers a nod to those of us, like Slope, Butler, Kaplan and Riker, who simply accept, with exasperation and love, our tarnished, scraped, and monstrous angel.

Get this one. If you like it, go back to the beginning and enjoy a wild ride. If you don't, well, what's wrong with you?

Be warned – British Titles
O'Connell's writing career began with a British publisher, and her novels have a busy life in UK editions. However, many of the titles are different there. Amazon will occasionally list a UK title without explanation. For example, there's a "new title" called Shark Music. It's just the UK edition of Find Me. Here's a list of UK titles with US equivalents.

British TitleU.S. Title
Mallory's Oraclesame
The Man Who Lied to WomenThe Man with Two Shadows
Killing Criticssame
Flight of the Stone AngelStone Angel
Judas Childsame
Magic MenShell Game
Crime Schoolsame
The Jury Must DieDead Famous
Winter Housesame
Shark MusicFind Me
The Chalk Girlsame
It Happens in the Darksame
Blind Sightsame

Read an annotated bibliography of Carol O'Connell's other novels, or reviews of Shell Game, Crime School, Dead Famous, Winter House, and Find Me .

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