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Winter House: A Mallory Novel    by Carol O'Connell order for
Winter House
by Carol O'Connell
Order:  USA  Can
Putnam, 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, Audio
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Kathy Mallory, last encountered in Dead Famous returns in Winter House to impress us once again with her single-minded, insightful determination. As usual, a cold case combines with a modern mystery to present a complex knot of a puzzle that only Mallory's obsessive brilliance can resolve. Early on, Charles Butler aptly muses 'Enigma, thy name is Mallory.'

Winter House once hosted a lively crowd of nine Winter children and their parents' Bohemian jazz parties. Then came absolute horror - the massacre of family and servants (five children and four adults) and the disappearance of twelve-year-old 'Red' Nedda Winter, who was believed to have been kidnapped. Almost sixty years after these events, Nedda has come home to join her two surviving siblings, Lionel and Cleo, and her mouselike adopted niece, Bitty Smyth, in the mansion. The police are called after Nedda kills an intruder, apparently with scissors. Why does she repeatedly write 'Crazy people make sane people crazy', where has she been for six decades, and what plays the mansion's ongoing background music?

Charles is pulled into the case after a wall of photos of him is discovered in shy Bitty's bedroom - is she a stalker? Detective Sergeant Riker, another series regular, inherited his police grandfather's obsession with the mystery of 'Red Winter'. Mallory is determined to work the case despite the disapproval of her boss Lieutenant Coffey, and steamrolls over anyone and anything in her path. It turns out that the Winter House intruder was killed with an ice pick, which was also the original murder weapon. Evidence points to Nedda, whom Charles takes on as his first and only patient. And as usual, Mallory and those close to her come into conflict as she races ahead of them in her understanding of both players and perils.

This thriller is partly a haunted house story, and largely an account of the evil results of uncontrolled greed - which of course Mallory is bent on uncovering for the world to see - and of the damage done to children by severe, unresolved trauma. Mallory is both merciless and compassionate in one breath, as she breaks open a very cold case to unveil a tragic lifetime of fear and horror. Mallory is always a must read - don't miss Winter House.

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