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Shell Game (Kathleen Mallory Novels)
ISBN 009929740X / 9780099297406 / 0-09-929740-X
Publisher Arrow/Children's (a Division of Random House
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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 [via]