To summarize the plot of Dead Famous
would be to spoil it, since O'Connell keeps revealing it layer by layer as you go along--a daring technique, and a rewarding one if you're a patient reader. Suffice it to say that the story involves a seemingly unstoppable serial killer; a beautiful hunchback with tragedy in her past; a radio shock-jock who helps the killer find his victims; an extremely mean house cat; a gloomy veteran cop drinking himself into oblivion; and, at the center of it all, NYPD detective Kathy Mallory, who returns here for her seventh outing. Mallory (don't
call her Kathy) is one of the strangest, most intriguing series heroines in crime fiction: a former street waif who's brilliant and gorgeous, but also sociopathic, manipulative, and obsessive-compulsive.
No formulaic cop thriller, Dead Famous is instead a crime tale that focuses on its quirky, often outre characters. There isn't a lot of conventional suspense. Yet near the end, the story gathers tremendous narrative momentum and rises to a real tragic power. O'Connell's quirky writing style and approach aren't for everyone, but her fans--old and new--will find much to appreciate here. --Nicholas H. Allison
From Publishers Weekly
O'Connell's post-feminist detective Kathleen Mallory returns full-throttle for an eighth grisly urban crime saga. And O'Connell's prose-sharp, gritty and streetwise-is in top form. In her previous case (2002's Crime School), Mallory solved a very personal murder and faced the doubts of coworkers about her competence. Now she's in total control, overseeing the recuperation of old friend and partner Riker, victim of an arrest-related shooting (she sets up a bogus fund to send him disability payments) and staying two steps ahead of a belligerent FBI agent named Marvin Argus. Two other vivid characters figure prominently in the story (or three, counting New York City itself, which O'Connell gives a palpable neo-noir grit): Argus is hounding Johanna Apollo, who's fled Chicago in the wake of a high-profile murder of another FBI agent named Timothy Kidd. A hunchback with extra-long legs, porcelain skin and raven hair, Johanna is working long, difficult hours as a crime scene cleaner. In Chicago, she was Kidd's therapist, and maybe his lover... and maybe she killed him, too. O'Connell devilishly fills in the pieces of the puzzle so that the reader's perspective undergoes constant shifts. Shock jock Ian Zachary-more abrasive off the air than on, if possible-exhorts loyal listeners to locate the members of a jury that let a killer walk free. And with his encouragement (if not instruction), a serial killer calling himself The Reaper has been obligingly knocking off the jurors. The way these two cases fit together is ingenious; once again, O'Connell sets the standard in crime fiction.
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