Tuesday, October 8, 2013

IT HAPPENS IN THE DARK by Carol O'Connell

First Sentence: The Theater District did not shut down for winter storms.

Putting on a play in New York is always a tough gig. However, having the play change constantly and having a person in the audience die each of the first two nights, makes it particularly challenging. It does draw an audience, and the attention of Special Crimes Unit, including Detective Mallory.

Kathy Mallory is a force and one of the most memorable and compelling characters there is. Her partner Riker, Dr. Edward Slope, brilliant Charles Butler and all of the recurring characters in this series are not only her family, but become part of everyone who follows the series. If you’re a fan, you are a real fan. If you’ve not read the series before, don’t start here.

It has taken me a long time to figure out how I feel about this book. The answer is that I’m somewhat disappointed. The reason why is the plot. It is confusing, to put it kindly. Of the secondary characters, there is only one about whom we care, and it takes us a long time to get there. Of the others, there is only one from whom we may feel some sympathy, but not that’s enough. There is, however, a very good second thread which does make the story more interesting. As opposed to most Mallory books, I did not find this a one-sitting read. I never considered not finishing it, but I did keep hoping it would get better.

The two things that drove me forward were the character of Mallory, who is always compelling, and O’Connell’s dialogue including her use of wry humor…”Words of a wise man: “Don’t ever let me catch you punching out a reporter.” And the late Louis Markowitz had also told her,” It’s unsanitary, kid. You don’t know where that scum has been.”. Those two elements are wonderful, but not enough on their own.

There seems to be a major continuity gap between the previous book, “The Chalk Girl”, and this book. That gap is never explained. There is also an epilogue in this book, as was in the last, that really doesn’t contribute anything to the story itself. The first time, it was interesting and touching; this time it seems disjointed and somewhat out of continuity with the previous one. I do, however, have a suspicion that O’Connell is playing with us, in the way Mallory would, and all will be clear….someday.

It Happens In the Dark” is not O’Connell’s best book. Were someone new to the series, or someone who is not a true fan, to read it, I suspect this would be the end or only book they would read by her. As someone who is a fan, I am willing to forgive an author their occasional blunder—who knows what may have been going on in Ms. O’Connell’s life during the time she was writing this—but I shall also very much hope the next book rises back to the level we’ve come to expect.

IT HAPPENS IN THE DARK (Pol Prod-Mallory-NYC-Cont) – Good
O’Connell, Carol
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2013


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