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.
O'Connell's driven and sharp-edged NYPD detective Kathleen Mallory revisits a 12-year-old double murder case first investigated by her beloved adoptive father, whose death was central to her notable debut in Mallory's Oracle (1994). The murder of a second-rate performance artist in mid-performance has many associations to the earlier, grisly and still unsolved homicides, which also touched the art world. Many of the same characters are involved in both killings: J.L. Quinn, the elegantly icy critic whose niece was one of the first victims; Avril Koozeman, whose galleries were murder scenes then and now; and Emma Sue Halloran, once a critic, now a culturecrat who forces hideous art into new buildings. Mallory and her partner, Sergeant Riker, must find keys to the new killing by prying memories from these witnesses. Hampering their efforts is the desire of the police brass to keep the old case closed. O'Connell's narrative force and character development are irresistible. Although the intense and private Mallory offers little to love until late in the story, her fierce determination draws the reader into her quest. Wacky artsy types and a flawed but sympathetic Riker leaven the heavy dose of misanthropy. O'Connell also delivers a cynical, funny lesson in art marketing, which sounds here less like culture than a pretentious pyramid scheme. 50,000 first printing; major ad/promo; author tour. (June)