The Chalk Girl by Carol O’Connell
Before Lisbeth Salander (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) there was Kathy Mallory, Carol O’Connell’s smart, computer savant, and just plain scary New York City Special Crimes Unit detective. Kathy was a feral child; she raised herself on the city’s streets until age 11 or 12 when she was found and adopted by a former Special Crimes Unit detective, but by then the damage was done. No amount of love could engender the same in Mallory. Mallory is interested in justice – her own special brand and she always exacts a price especially if someone displeases her.
In the latest Mallory book, The Chalk Girl, an 8 year old girl, Coco, the vision of a red-haired fairy wanders around Central Park until she is discovered joining a group of children on a school field trip. She is bloodstained, filthy and claims that her uncle has turned into a tree. Mallory investigates and finds her uncle was strung up in a tree, naked, sensory-deprived, and stuffed into a burlap sack. This crime echoes a crime from 15 years ago where a child from one of the City’s most elite schools was similarly hung in a tree in Central Park. The plot moves fast; the dialog is crisp and once again, the question of Mallory’s sanity – is she or isn’t she – hangs in the air.
Anyone who enjoys the crime genre should give the Mallory series a try. The Chalk Girl is the 10th book, but it is not necessary to read them in order. If you enjoyed Stieg Larsson or any of the well-known crime novelists such as Cornwell, Patterson, Childs, Kellerman, or White then I would give Carol O’Connell’s book a try. I think you might discover a new author that you like even better than the ones you currently enjoy.