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Dead Famous: A Mallory Novel    by Carol O'Connell order for
Dead Famous
by Carol O'Connell
Order:  USA  Can
Putnam, 2003 (2003)
Hardcover, Audio

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I've been hooked on Kathy Mallory thrillers since the first. She's a most unusual character, a sociopathic policewoman, who's so good at what she does that those close to her make allowances for the qualities she lacks. Her most likeable trait is the fierce protectiveness that she exhibits towards those she has allowed close to her. Sadly she's lost many of them, starting with Helen and Lou Markowitz, the adoptive parents who took her in as a tough street kid. Now she's determined to save Riker, who's gone downhill after being shot and almost killed in a previous episode.

Mallory's cure is both brilliant and ruthless. She manipulates Riker's involvement in the case of a serial killer, 'the Reaper', one of whose targets is the only person in whom Riker has shown interest since his shooting. Johanna Apollo is a psychiatrist whose jury duty led her into tragedy and an unending nightmare, and who loves her attack cat Mugs, despite his damaged psyche. Though a childhood illness has left Johanna with a hunchback, her 'warm and velvety' eyes and lovely legs have caught Riker's attention. Ian Zachary is an abusive, unrelentingly obnoxious 'shock radio' host, who's climbed to fame on the bleeding backs of the Reaper's victims. His show pays callers for information about the killer's targets, the jurors who freed a guilty man and are being eliminated one by one. The FBI are involved in the case, with one particularly arrogant agent using Johanna as bait - the reader can't wait for him to get his comeuppance. And we wonder why Dr. Apollo collects a rare wine that happens to be the Reaper's favorite, who is the 'faux blind man', and why Riker is so secretive about his given name.

We meet Riker's stone-faced police legend father, along with series regulars like the genius Charles Butler 'who once described himself as the bastard child of Cyrano and a pop-eyed frog' and is Mallory's 'friend and foremost apologist'. Charles hovers on the edges of action, dispensing hesitant wisdom. As usual O'Connell masterfully and swiftly weaves together multiple threads of plot, centered on strong, compelling characters, with surprises around every corner. And, as always, she gives us an excellent read, one I could not put down - don't miss Dead Famous.

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