Title: Shell Game
Publisher: Putnam, 1999
Publication Date: 1999
Book Condition: Fine
Dust Jacket Condition: Fine
Signed: Signed by Author(s)
Edition: 1st Edition
In Plastic DJ Cover. First Printing. Bookseller Inventory # 001829
Synopsis: The seductive new Kathleen Mallory novel from one of the most "blazingly original" ( Kirkus Reviews) writers in suspense fiction.
From the very first, Carol O'Connell's novels have won extraordinary praise. "O'Connell has raised the standard for psychological thrillers over the last four years," said the Chicago Tribune, and Booklist stated bluntly of Judas Child, "Few readers will be able to resist the charms of her lyrical prose, and anyone unmoved by the soul-shattering climax should give up reading fiction altogether."
In Shell Game, she raises the standard once again. It is fall in New York City. The recreation of a legendary magic trick goes horribly awry on live television--a terrible accident, everyone agrees. But two people know it is not. One is an aged magician in a private hospital in the northern corner of New York state. What a worthy performance, he thinks, murdering a man while a million people watch.
The other is Kathleen Mallory. Once a feral child, loose on the city streets, she is now a New York City policewoman, and not much changed--a tall young woman with green gunslinger eyes and a ferocious inner compass of right and wrong. For her, the death is too dramatic, too showy, and she is convinced that it will happen again--this perp loves spectacle. But even she cannot predict the spectacular chain of events that has already been set in motion, or the profoundly disturbing consequences it will have for those she holds most dear. For misdirection is the heart of magic. The lady never really gets sawed in half, does she?
So why is there so much blood?
Filled with the rich prose, resonant characters and knife-edge suspense that have won her so many admirers, Shell Game is Carol O'Connell's most remarkable novel yet.
Review: There has always been a touch of magic, a whiff of deception and illusion about Mallory, the New York homicide detective who never lets anyone call her Kathy. In highly praised books such as Killing Critics, Mallory's Oracle, and The Man Who Cast Two Shadows, Carol O'Connell has wrapped her fascinating, frustrating character in a cloak of myth. So it's no surprise that in her fifth adventure, Mallory is literally surrounded by magic and magicians, trying to find out why an old illusionist was killed while re-creating a famous trick involving four crossbows.
All of the suspects are magicians themselves, connected to the past and each other by events in Paris during World War II. One of them, a self-declared madman named Malakhai, lives in a mental hospital and maintains an elaborate fantasy involving his dead wife. There's a marvelous set piece early on--a poker game at which this invisible woman not only takes a seat but also makes bets, wins hands, and smokes lipsticked cigarettes. Of course Mallory is largely on her own in the investigation: she insults her only two friends and alienates all her police colleagues with her weird, unorthodox methods.
O'Connell is a richly poetic writer who fills her books with fleeting samples of everyone from Rilke and T.S. Eliot to Billie Holiday. Even if you're not deeply interested in how magicians work their magic, you should find enough other pleasures here to enjoy the author's superb bag of tricks. --Dick Adler
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