Customer Reviews: At the Stroke of Madness (The Maggie O'Dell Series, Book 4)
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on July 27, 2003
I was lucky enough to recieve a review copy of Ms Kava's newest book and after the initail reaction - dumb founded shock not to mention the complete and utter disbelief - to the no NICK MORRELLI aspect I must say I was impressed. Ms Kava out did herself with her first two - Perfect Evil and Split Second - however I found her third - Soul Catcher rather lacking.
She definatley makes a come back with this newest Maggie O'Dell novel - At the Stroke of Madness. This novel has everything, murder, mystery and great ensemble of characters. It brings into play Maggie's half brother which she has never met and it also explores and develops the relationship between Tully and Gwen - Personally i havn't yet made up my mind whether i like that particular story line and in true Alex Kava fashion when dealing with relationships, everything is left open to follow up in the next book and the reader left hanging.
The book takes us through many twists and drops little hints before the killer is finally revealed and in this novel it is not so obvious - thank god.
I personally find that Ms. Kava writes a good strong solid female lead in Maggie O'Dell that we do not see in many books and in usually Maggie O'Dell style she does end up getting herself in a fair amount of trouble and unfortunatley this is becoming a standard event in every book, just once it would be great for her to catch a killer without almost dying it gives her an air incompetence when she really isn't
However I did thoroughly enjoy this book and would recommend it even if you did get a little turned off by Soul Catcher, I promise it is worth your money.
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on October 16, 2003
I have read all of Alex Kava's books and have thoroughly enjoyed watching this wonderful storyteller grow with each novel. The writing in this newest one is excellent, and I love the characters. Luc is my favorite. Kava's sure touch and sensitivity enabled her to portray this Alzheimer's patient in a non-sentimental, realistic way that truly moved me. And, of course, the tale she spins is exactly what thriller fans are looking for. I had to smile at one of the journal reviews above that mentioned the lack of romance and humor, as if this were a failing in a thriller novel. Actually, it's the mark of the best -- a story that maintains the mood and excitement throughout without unnecessary digressions into the crutches of romance and/or humor. There is a bit of romance in this book, but it feeds the character development of both Tully and Gwen (both are recurring characters in Kava's books) and it is handled very well. Something else I appreciated was Kava's sense of place (I could easily imagine the Connecticut countryside where her story takes place, and the cozy little bookstore that appears in the narrative). Ms. Kava, please write faster and put out more than one book a year!
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"At the Stroke of Madness," by Alex Kava, breaks no new ground. Maggie O'Dell is a recently divorced FBI profiler about to go on a much-needed vacation, when she gets a phone call from her friend, Gwen Patterson. Gwen, a psychologist, would like Maggie to look into the possible disappearance of a patient.

When Maggie agrees to help, she finds herself embroiled in a very ugly case. It turns out that there is an extremely sick man on the loose in the quiet town of Wallingford, Connecticut. This individual has been killing people for a most unusual reason. Will Maggie catch the killer before he strikes again?

If all this sounds routine, it is, but Kava's nicely depicted characters place this book a notch above the ordinary. There is Luc Racine, a retired postal worker who may have seen the killer. Sadly, Luc is afflicted with Alzheimer's, and his memory is unreliable. Dr. Adam Bonzado is a young and good-looking forensic anthropologist who has been called in to analyze the victims' bones, and when he starts working with Maggie, he finds himself attracted to her. Sheriff Henry Watermeier is close to retirement age. He would prefer not to get bogged down in such a difficult case when he should be taking it easy. Meanwhile, Maggie has some painful emotional baggage that troubles her, but she is determined not to let the past ruin her future.

"At the Stroke of Madness" moves along very quickly, and I finished it in less than a day. I recommend this book for readers who like a skillfully written, fast-paced, and entertaining mystery with an engrossing plot and well-drawn characters.
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on September 22, 2015
Alex Kava's, At The Stroke of Madness is a thriller. Spl. FBI Agent, Maggie O'Dell is supposed to be on vacation, but she agrees to help out her doctor friend, Gwen Patterson. Seems that Gwen's patient, Joan Begly, went to Connecticut to see a friend. Now, she has just disappeared. Now begins a journey into a mystery of murders in a small town Wallingford, CN. Detective Racine, Washington D.C., father Luc lives in the area and is in the beginning stages of Alzhiemers. O'Dell is on her own in the area and has the help of the local sheriff who has retired from NYPD. If you really want to read a thriller about a man who's lost his mind and becomes a serial killer, then this book is for you. You won't be sorry. Rated PG for violence and language. Not much sexual contact.
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on February 1, 2014
This was this first book that I read by this author. She has very good character development. The storyline is great. I love books that include criminal profilers. They are so interesting and it is neat when the story includes why the person is doing what they are doing. At least, that makes it more enjoyable for me. The book was very suspenseful. Once I started reading it, I had a very hard time putting it down. It you are looking for a good mystery/suspense novel, look no further. This will be the book for you. I am sure you will enjoy.
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on May 19, 2005
At the Stroke of Madness by Alex Kava is the fourth Maggie O'Dell book. O'Dell, an FBI Special Agent, is just beginning her well-deserved vacation when a good friend, psychologist Dr. Gwen Patterson, asks O'Dell to look into the disappearance of one of her patients who has gone to Connecticut for her grandmother's funeral. Within a day, reports are coming in that the body of a woman has been discovered in an abandoned rock quarry in Connecticut, near the grandmother's hometown.

As O'Dell arrives in Connecticut, more bodies are being discovered in the quarry, and she becomes involved "unofficially" in the investigation of what may be one of the worst serial killing sprees in history. But is the first body found the woman for whom she seeks, or has something else happened to Gwen Patterson's patient?

Although not as intense as Kava's first three Maggie O'Dell books, At the Stroke of Madness is still a positive addition to this excellent series.
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on October 11, 2003
AT THE STROKE OF MADNESS is Alex Kava's newest Maggie O'Dell novel. It continues Kava's quiet --- actually almost understated --- development of the semi-loner FBI agent. Kava is content at this point to slowly develop O'Dell's background and personality, while carrying the novel primarily with the introduction of interesting, dangerous and frightening antagonists.
O'Dell is starting some long overdue vacation time when she receives a call from her friend Gwen Patterson. Patterson, a psychologist, is concerned about Joan Begley, a patient of hers who left Patterson a cryptic voice mail message and then promptly went missing.
Begley's last known location was Meriden, Connecticut where she was attending her grandmother's funeral. O'Dell does not take the disappearance seriously until the body of a woman is discovered in an industrial waste drum in an abandoned quarry near Meriden, a quiet, scenic community primarily known as a tourist stop at the turning of the leaves each autumn. O'Dell, motivated by guilt, travels to Connecticut on an unofficial basis to see if the murdered woman is, in fact, Begley. By the time O'Dell arrives, more bodies are unearthed and it becomes obvious that there is a serial killer at work in the area.
Kava really does her forensic homework in AT THE STROKE OF MADNESS, and it should be noted that you don't want to be chomping down on a burger or steak while reading some of the passages. She also does an excellent job of misdirecting the reader as to the ultimate identity of the killer while providing a couple of clues as to who the fiend really is. With respect to O'Dell's personal life, Kava provides one bombshell and sets up the potential for another.
AT THE STROKE OF MADNESS continues Kava's slow but sure development of O'Dell while continuing to demonstrate her ability to create unforgettable yet realistic monsters for her to apprehend. The conclusion of AT THE STROKE OF MADNESS is particularly unforgettable and may set the stage for a future O'Dell novel.
--- Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub
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I personally like books by Alex Kava and I particularly enjoy reading the Maggie O’Dell Novels and for the most part have been quite satisfied with all of them. At The Stroke of Madness in no exception and it most certainly met my reading needs at this time (more about that later).

The plot, if brief since we already have many fine plot summaries available here amongst all these reviews, is in some ways simple but quite intriguing at the same time. While investigating a missing person for a friend (Maggie is supposed to be on vacation) she becomes involved with an apparent serial killer. In an old stone quarry fifty gallon oil drums are discovered, all containing bodies which are at different levels of decomposition. I suppose one of the first thing that caught my attention was that this all happened in a small town in Connecticut; one of be most benign, beautiful and peaceful places I have ever visited. It is the last place of earth you would expect such a horrid series of crimes to be committed.

Anyway, it is soon discovered that various bodied parts are missing from these bodies and indeed, one of the bodies was apparently snatched from a grave; yup, the poor guy was already dead! Maggie, who as we know is an expert FBI Profiler, quickly becomes involved.

So we have the prime plot but we also have the original story of the missing she one of the bodies found in the cans? Suspects abound and we get to follow Maggie as she works her magic. We also have a rather loveable old fellow with early onset of dementia and his quite loveable dog.

Of course there, as in all these books, a love interest but it does not overwhelm the story – something this particular author, Alex Kava, has a tendency to do from time to time.

I read these books for pure relaxation. It takes me about two evenings of reading (and I am a slow reader) to finish one book and for those two evenings I am entertained. Kava is a good story teller and keeps her stories moving along at a good clip for the most part. I like this series (I, in general, like series books) and am glad I stumbled across these at the local library.

I am giving this one five stars simply because I personally enjoyed it.

Don Blankenship
The Ozarks
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on August 5, 2003
D.C. based artist Joan Begley already felt lonely when the only person she felt cared about her died. Joan heads to middle Connecticut for the funeral. While in the Wallingford area she meets Sonny who has befriended her over the Internet. However, instead of showing Joan kindness he abducts her.
Joan's psychiatrist Dr. Gwen Patterson worries about her patient who she is quite fond of when she seemingly fails to check out of her room or catch her flight home. She calls her best friend FBI Special Agent, profiling expert Maggie O'Dell to see if she can learn what happened to Joan. When a female corpse is found in the area, Maggie uses her vacation time to see what happened. As other bodies are found it looks like a serial killer seems to operating in the area. Maggie takes charge of the investigation even though her superior tells her to keep her butt out. Local Sheriff Watermeir is pleased to see her on the case so she can be his fall guy if all goes wrong.
The latest O'Dell police procedural is an exciting suspense laden tale. The serial killer story line hooks the audience because of the strong cast working the law enforcement side. In many ways the culprit is typical of the serial killer tale. However, Alex Kava enables the audience to see inside the head of the heroine and several other characters, especially an Alzheimer's victim and the sheriff, so that AT THE STROKE OF MADNESS turns into a fast-paced, one sitting novel.
Harriet Klausner
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on August 19, 2015
This is the fourth book from author Alex Kava's Maggie O'Dell series. Not nearly as good as the first book in series but an enjoyable read. So far all of the books in this series have been quick reading mysteries. Not too complicated in the plot nor to much depth from it's characters. Somewhat like old fashioned "cozies", it's easy to root for FBI Profiler Maggie O'Dell as she tracks down the killer. Some small twits and turns with plot give it some jump. Just wish the characters would develop more life like. Too cardboard stiff. I know I'll real several books more from the series. Sometimes it's just fun to read an easy one and fly through it quickly. I'd recommend for those wanting a quick and uncomplicated read. Four stars out of a possible five stars for this one. It's a good series to read for summer.
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