Mallory's Oracle (A Mallory Novel)
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on January 9, 2006
Sometimes, police procedurals are a dime a dozen. As fun as it is to get into the minutiae of a fictional cop's life, it can be a little formulaic after awhile. The characters get a little cookie cutter. You know each of them: the alcoholic but good-hearted cop, the green rookie, and the hardened police captain.

Mallory's Oracle tries to make you think that it's just another procedural. And if you start to believe that, if you fall for that ruse, you will be wildly surprised.

In a genre ruled by plot, character-driven mysteries really surprise us when they come along. Now, I know that I'm a decade behind on this one - the book came out in '94, I think. But, for me, discovering Carol O'Conner is like coming across Elizabeth George and Laurie R. King for the first time. It's taking characters we know - the New York cop, the British Inspector, the consulting detective - and delving deep into their soul to see what makes them tick.

That's what happens in Mallory's Oracle. We dive deep into the soul of Kathleen Mallory. She is a deep, interesting, unpredictable, and enigmatic character. I really liked her "partner" Charles and the forays into the world of magic and mediums were great. She doesn't hand you the story on a silver platter - she makes you work for it. But trust me, it's worth the effort. This is a great start to what looks to be a great series.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon July 10, 2004
This reader was immediately sucked into this fast paced murder mystery. There were many suspects presented in this serial killer storyline and the suspense was well plotted. However, the characters in this book were the real gems. They almost became flesh and blood before my eyes as the author painted such loving images of not altogether loveable characters. First off, Kathy Mallory is a tough as nails young cop trying to avenge her sort of adopted father's death - Markowitz - and oh by the way, she was a runaway who was "found" on the streets by him when she was around 11. Her terrible and traumatic background is hinted at but never revealed. Mallory is unconditionally loved by Markowitz and his wife and even though both of these characters are dead as we read this book, the reader can see them as relevant characters and we feel her loss. Then there's Markowitz' band of poker buddies (The Rabbi, the Lawyer and the Doctor) who are three dimensional characters as well. Last but not least, there's her two sidekicks of Charles Butler (a modern day Ichobod Crane figure) and another cop named Riker(a drunkard with redeeming qualities). Sure her characters are flawed, but they all have principals that they hold true to and all of them can be admired. Kudos to the author for her skill in presenting such intriguing characters that seem so real. As soon as I finished this book I immediately picked up the next one in this series (The Man Who Cast Two Shadows).
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on September 27, 2008
I think Carol O'Connell must be terrified of old age. That's the main feeling I took away from "Mallory's Oracle," with its plethora of elderly women and its painful depiction of their lives -- dismissed and condescended to by just about everyone under 60, living in terror of broken bones and broken TVs and loneliness, no meaningful activities to occupy them, no longer quite human enough even to deserve names (they are often referred to simply as "the moon-faced one" or "High Cheekbones" or "the nodding one").

Of course, one of the book's points is that it can be very dangerous to underestimate the old, but I found the overall attitude toward elderly people disturbing: they're to be mocked, feared, pitied, patronized, deplored, felt superior to -- but never, apparently, to be liked, understood, accepted, or seen as the equal of a younger person. They are old, and that's all that defines them. If the story is meant to challenge that view on some level, I don't think it succeeds -- too many references, with barely-concealed disgust, to liver spots, palsy, paper-thin skin, brittle bones, agonizingly-slow steps, etc. Occasionally a younger person will realize that the old were young once, too ("she might have been hot once," thinks a cop about High Cheekbones), but there's no sense that they are real people anymore.

And then there's the character of Kathy Mallory. I don't require a main character I can like or "identify with," so I don't mind that Kathy is unlikeable. What I do mind is that she seems like such an obvious authorial fantasy, a "Mary Sue," if I can use a term from fanfiction. She's tall, impossibly beautiful, cool, tough, slim, green-eyed, and brilliant; she's a computer wizard who consistently reduces men -- from her boss to her father's friends to her grizzled cop colleagues to her business partner -- to lovesick jellies who are happy to exist in her thrall and to let her get away with almost anything. Finally, of course, she both saves the day AND gets romantically rescued by her various knights.

We're constantly told how many people staunchly love and are charmed by Kathy despite her sociopathic inability to respond to them, but we're never actually *shown* any aspects of her character or behavior that would make these reactions plausible. (Maybe I would be more charitable if Mallory were closer to my own fantasies of empowered women, but as it is, she just seems cardboard and silly, and I ended up feeling vaguely slimy, as if I'd just eavesdropped on a co-worker's innermost daydreams.)

There are some finely-turned lines in this book, but I don't feel the need to read any further titles. There's nothing real enough here (and I don't mean just "realistic.")
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on November 5, 1998
"Mallory's Oracle" is a dense, wordy novel that covers a lot of characters and plot threads (insider trading, seances, street life, magic tricks, computers, police procedurals). So much so that I was unable to keep track of what was happening. Many of the characters (Coffey, Riker, the old ladies and the "bad guys") are not fully fleshed out. The other characters, with the exception of Charles, Markowitz, Helen and the Rabbi (and two of them are dead) are unsympathic and humorless. The author tried to pull all the plot elements together in the end, but it got very convoluted. O'Connell has a talent for writing, but reading this morass of a novel was not an enjoyable experience.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 26, 2006
"Mallory's Oracle" was the first of a highly successful, New York-set series for author Carol O'Connell, and was nominated for a prestigious Edgar Award. The series stars Kathleen Mallory, a policewoman, who, whaddaya know, happens to be 6'1", blond, beautiful, and stunningly green-eyed. She also has immense street, and computer smarts. She does not, however, leap any tall buildings in a single bound, at least not in this first book.

She had been a homeless, criminal, preteen street urchin, until found and taken home by Louis Markowitz, policeman, to be raised by him and his wife Helen. They have set her more or less straight. And fortunately enough, Mallory displays no sensitivity to Kryptonite,at least not in this first book.

In this first of the series, Mallory picks up an investigation of someone murdering wealthy elderly women who live on New York's elite enclave, Gramercy Square: Through some miscalculation on his part, this case has just cost talented detective Markowitz his life. So, of course, Mallory's suspended from the force-- too closely involved, you know-- and though she has never been trained in actual police investigative techniques, she cracks the case.

The mystery, as such, has some clever touches. But O'Connell's rendition of New York is neither strong nor dense; nor are her renditions of the cops Mallory works with, the elderly victims, or the villains, though at least a couple of them are somewhat sketched in. The book opens on a really nasty scene, part of a subplot about a woman who tortures her dogs. That subplot was the real mystery to me: didn't know what it was doing there, what the dogs were doing there. And this is what lingers with me; it might not have been what O'Connell intended. Your move.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 27, 2001
The plot was good, but the writing was so distant that I couldn't get into the book at all. I had to struggle to finish it. I liked Charles, but didn't care much for, or about, Mallory at all. In books I enjoy, I get into the book, and I identify with the characters. It feels almost like I'm with them, a part of what's going on. This was too much like someone I don't know telling me a story about people I don't know. It was interesting, but I wasn't part of it, and I didn't enjoy it. I don't plan to read the other Mallory books that are out there - perhaps they're better, but this book, and these characters, didn't interest me enough to find out.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on June 30, 1998
I was extremely disappointed in this book. The idea of a street urchin taken in by a cop and his wife was an interesting premise...The story is confusing and implausible and the final resolution makes no sense whatsoever. The main character is so harsh and unfeeling that she is very hard to like or root for. There are too many red herrings, a muddled Wall Street scenario and ridiculous events (the drugging by the fortune teller had me laughing out loud!). The revelation chapter was so confusing and poorly written that the "action" scenes it was trying to portray left me totally disinterested. And I still don't know what role Edith Candle played! Highly disappointing and disjointed. If this was worth an $800,000 advance, give me a pad and paper!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on November 19, 2001
This is the first Carol O'Connell book I've read. The basic plot was a good one, but the author's writing style made it very tough to get through the book. It was almost like a high school term paper written with sentences far too long and extra words thrown in everywhere, in order to make a 6-page paper into a 10-page paper!
I'm also a little tired of gorgeous female detectives ... how about a little realism? Also, this woman hasn't met a computer that she can't hack into! Come on, without this superhuman ability, the whole story falls apart.
Finally, what was the deal with the abused dog??
I'll try another Mallory story, but unless it feels more like enjoyment and less like a chore, it will be the last.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on December 19, 2003
Others are correct in stating that Kathy Mallory, the center of this novel and the series that follows, is a cold character and difficult to like. If you like mysteries featuring Sneaky-Pie Brown, give these books a pass. But the Mallory mysteries, beginning with Mallory's Oracle, have become my favorite series because of their complex characterizations, perfectly paced plotting, and unblinking realism. As dark and layered as its protagonist, Mallory's Oracle is an intriguing police procedural with an attention to detail, and each book gets better and more engrossing. Love the other characters, Riker and Charles, and watch Mallory like a hawk. It'll pay off richly.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on May 8, 2000
In the first few pages of this novel, I knew I'd encountered a formidable new protagonist, and, at the same time, a very talented author.
Granted, Kathleen Mallory is a pretty cold character, but her singlemindedness makes her the perfect weapon of revenge. She reminded me of Burke, Andrew Vachss' character who crusades for children. Although I wouldn't nominate either of them for neighborhood babysitter, I'd definitely want them searching for a lost child.
Mallory's Oracle is certainly dark, which will scare off many readers, but we do see glimmers of hope in Mallory's world.
I, for one, will follow her journey eagerly.
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