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Damaged and Dangerous: Carol O’Connell’s Kathleen Mallory

No one’s perfect, and your detectives shouldn’t be, either.

carol o'connell's kathleen mallory

What Carol O’Connell set out to be was a painter—writing was just her hobby. And her most famous creation, Detective Kathleen Mallory, started as a minor player in another character’s story. But the dark and damaged detective couldn’t be confined to spare time, to a bit part, or to just one novel. As O’Connell got to know her character better, she realized that Mallory needed to be at the center of the story. And she realized that Mallory was becoming more important to her than her art.

With her all-but-abandoned paintings taking up most of the space in her apartment, O’Connell huddled in a closet to write Mallory’s Oracle, the book that would anchor a twelve-book series featuring Kathleen Mallory. Asked to describe Mallory, O’Connell once quoted a line James Joyce wrote about a cat: ''Cruel. Her nature. Curious mice never squeal. Seem to like it.''

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Knowing Mallory’s backstory goes a long way toward understanding what makes her fascinating to both her foes and O’Connell’s readers. When Detective Louis Markowitz found 11-year-old Kathy Mallory living on the street, he gave the young thief a home—but he found that the damage already done by her horrific childhood made it nearly impossible to give Mallory a true moral center. After all, Markowitz realized, no amount of love can create an angel from a sociopath.

Understanding that a predator can be contained but not essentially changed, Markowitz raised his adopted daughter with a moral framework intended to guide her more dangerous instincts to serve good instead of evil. The Kathleen Mallory series is a gripping read: As Mallory uses her unique talents to pursue killers and restore justice, readers root for her to develop the kind of human compassion that will allow her to live more fully and find justice for herself, as well.

mallory's oracle

Mallory's Oracle

By Carol O'Connell

The series opens with Markowitz’s murder. Kathleen Mallory is the first detective to arrive, and she immediately understands that she is up against a worthy opponent: Louis Markowitz could not have been easy to kill. As she investigates the death of the man who functioned as her father, Mallory is mired in her own brand of grief—but she is fortunate enough to be surrounded by a supportive and loyal group of friends who admire her abilities and love her despite her flaws.

the man who lied to women

The Man Who Lied to Women

By Carol O'Connell

The second Mallory book, published as The Man Who Cast Two Shadows in the United Kingdom, sees Mallory hunting the killer of a woman slain in New York’s Central Park. Mallory’s ability to inhabit the mind of a killer is on full display as she tracks her prey along a slender thread of clues that begin with a single lie. Readers learn more about Mallory and her circle as O’Connell weaves dramatic subplots through the fabric of the tense central narrative.

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killing critics

Killing Critics

By Carol O'Connell

One of Markowitz’s old cases—a brutal double homicide—suddenly takes on new meaning for Mallory as she investigates the murder of an artist at a gallery opening. Mallory is plunged into a world of secrets and lies as O’Connell wittily skewers the art world from which she herself came. The intensity ratchets up as Mallory is forced to fight her superiors to reopen Markowitz’s case, and as her investigation begins to reveal uncomfortable truths that lie too close to home.

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flight of the stone angel

Flight of the Stone Angel

By Carol O'Connell

In the fourth installment in the Kathleen Mallory series, Mallory leaves New York behind to travel home to Louisiana, where her own story began with the murder of her mother when Mallory was just six years old. Mallory leaves a trail of destruction in her wake as she pursues her own form of justice for this very personal murder. Luckily for Mallory, both old friends and new rally around her to help her find answers without destroying herself in the process.

shell game

Shell Game

By Carol O'Connell

Shell Game is a magical mystery in the literal sense of the words. A magician is killed in the midst of a televised trick, and Mallory must find a way to see through misdirections created by a suspect pool composed of professional illusionists. Her hunt for the killer eventually reaches all the way back to the Paris of World War II, and introduces her to a self-declared madman who just might have the skills to outwit her.

crime school

Crime School

By Carol O'Connell

Crime School takes readers once more into the troubled world of Mallory’s past. The victim is a sex worker who rescued—and then betrayed—Mallory when she was a child alone on the streets of New York. The grisly crime scene, too, has echoes from Mallory’s past. As another fascinating glimpse into the traumas and triumphs that shaped Mallory unfolds for the reader, present-day Mallory is on the prowl for the serial killer who is terrorizing New York.

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dead famous

Dead Famous

By Carol O'Connell

This novel’s original title—The Jury Must Die—foreshadows the crimes at the heart of Dead Famous. A jury issues an acquittal in a high-profile case, and a killer decides to seek his own twisted form of justice. One by one, jury members are dying—and a radio shock jock is only making Mallory’s job harder with his ratings-grabbing game encouraging listeners to find the remaining jurors. Mallory must race against time to stop “The Reaper” before he takes the lives of the final jurors in this suspenseful thriller.

winter house

Winter House

By Carol O'Connell

It seems like a simple case: a homeowner has killed a home invader. But nothing is what it seems at Winter House. The homeowner, Nedda Winter, turns out to have a link to the decades-old “Winter Massacre,” and a past as shocking and bizarre as that of Mallory herself. An enormous inheritance provides plenty of motives for Mallory to sort through, but she must also contend with her feelings about Nedda Winter, who seems eerily like a potential future version of herself.

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shark music

Shark Music

By Carol O'Connell

In the novel originally published under the title Find Me, a gunshot victim is found in Kathy Mallory’s apartment. Her partner, Riker, has questions—but Mallory is nowhere to be found. Mallory has joined a caravan of desperate parents who have converged on Route 66, torn between hope and fear about what they will find—because the bodies of children are being discovered along the so-called “Mother Road.” The child that Mallory is desperate to find is her own younger self, and her search for answers about her past will change her future forever.

the chalk girl

The Chalk Girl

By Carol O'Connell

When The Chalk Girl opens, Mallory has been missing for three months and refuses to say where she has been. The case she returns to involves a particularly vulnerable child who has witnessed unspeakable things: a case that resonates deeply for Mallory. Her quest to solve the gory mystery of who is leaving bodies hanging in bags from the trees of Central Park will take her 15 years into the past, into a world of cruelty and coverups that she has good reason to despise.

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it happens in the dark

It Happens in the Dark

By Carol O'Connell

Murder, of course, is what “happens in the dark” in the 11th Mallory novel: in the dark of a theater during the performance of a play, to be exact. The world of the theater is an especially tricky place for O’Connell’s fierce detective to solve a crime, because every suspect is an expert at seeming to be what they are not. Readers will feel pain for Mallory in this book, as her own nature complicates her quest for justice and tests her relationships to their limits.

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blind sight

Blind Sight

By Carol O'Connell

They are there, walking along the city sidewalk in plain sight—and then, suddenly, the child and the nun are gone. Vanished. When the nun’s corpse is found along with three other bodies on the governor’s lawn, Malloy is called to investigate. Her search for the killer is made more urgent by the missing child, Jonah Quill. Jonah is not only young, he is blind—and in the company of a serial killer. Mallory’s theory about what is happening is almost impossible for her colleagues to believe—but she is willing to take on anyone in order to make it to Jonah in time.