- Series: Kathleen Mallory Novels
- Hardcover: 374 pages
- Publisher: Putnam Adult; First Edition edition (July 5, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780399144950
- ISBN-13: 978-0399144950
- ASIN: 0399144951
- Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 49 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,287,282 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Shell Game (Kathleen Mallory Novels) Hardcover – July 5, 1999
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There has always been a touch of magic, a whiff of deception and illusion about Mallory, the New York homicide detective who never lets anyone call her Kathy. In highly praised books such as Killing Critics, Mallory's Oracle, and The Man Who Cast Two Shadows, Carol O'Connell has wrapped her fascinating, frustrating character in a cloak of myth. So it's no surprise that in her fifth adventure, Mallory is literally surrounded by magic and magicians, trying to find out why an old illusionist was killed while re-creating a famous trick involving four crossbows.
All of the suspects are magicians themselves, connected to the past and each other by events in Paris during World War II. One of them, a self-declared madman named Malakhai, lives in a mental hospital and maintains an elaborate fantasy involving his dead wife. There's a marvelous set piece early on--a poker game at which this invisible woman not only takes a seat but also makes bets, wins hands, and smokes lipsticked cigarettes. Of course Mallory is largely on her own in the investigation: she insults her only two friends and alienates all her police colleagues with her weird, unorthodox methods.
O'Connell is a richly poetic writer who fills her books with fleeting samples of everyone from Rilke and T.S. Eliot to Billie Holiday. Even if you're not deeply interested in how magicians work their magic, you should find enough other pleasures here to enjoy the author's superb bag of tricks. --Dick Adler
From Publishers Weekly
O'Connell (Judas Child) deftly demonstrates her own sleight of hand as she recounts NYPD detective Kathleen Mallory's investigation of the "accidental" death of magician Oliver TreeAwho died while trying to recreate on live TV the late Max Candle's most famous trick, in which a man survives the fire of four crossbows. As Mallory capitalizes on her friendship with Candle's beloved cousin, Charles Butler, to delve into a WW II mystery involving a group of elderly magicians, all colleagues of Candle and Tree, hints of Mallory's inner life begin to emerge. Once a street kid, the coldly efficient detective comprehends better than most the soul-deadening choices these men made to survive during the war and the cycle of repentance and retribution that have set a deadly game in motion. Mallory is drawn in by the seductive Malakhai, a master of misdirection who is always accompanied by the illusion of his long-dead wife, Louisa. While the detective, in search of answers, uses her high-tech skills to manipulate data banks and to amass information, Charles Butler is in his basement, trying to put together Max's great trick. Meanwhile, the stalwart Sergeant Riker, Mallory's unofficial guardian and staunch defender, is on call. O'Connell adroitly entwines the excitement of Manhattan's Thanksgiving Day parade with the world of illusion and the anguish of war. Her tough realism and hypnotic prose will leave readers eager for more. Author tour. (July)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Kathleen Mallory is convinced that the death of a magician during his recreation of a trick famed for being dangerous was murder. She is also convinced that the bullet that brought down the balloon of America's most loved cartoon character during Macy's Thanksgiving Parade was fired in another murder attempt. She spends most of the novel in a mental chess game with the Great Malakhai, whom she believes is planning to murder the man who murdered his wife. She fails, rather refreshingly.
But she also finds a way to win. That is one of the things I disliked about this effort; I would have liked seeing the little monster made more vulnerable. I will admit that the book did humanize her more. The old man doesn't seduce her sexually, but he does get her to fall for him on some level, although he can't get her to abandon her duty. He also diagnoses her more convincingly that her psychologists did when she was eleven. He thinks she is ruthless, not psychopathic, the latter being the opinion of her friends and admirers, and I do believe he is right. Her ruthlessness is can still be jaw-dropping. I am starting to like the character as much as I do her adventures. I think that started when the old man got her a little drunk and persuaded her to wear a top hat as she talked to him.