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Carol O'Connell is the author of eight previous Mallory novels, including the national bestseller Winter House, and of Judas Child.
It's a bit awkward to face reviewing something entitled Killing Critics, but the critics in question here review art, not audiobooks. O'Connell's wicked send-up of the trendy art world begins with a murder in a gallery, which is mistaken for performance art. Is this case related to the grisly murder of another artist and a dancer 12 years earlier? Kathleen Mallory, last seen in O'Connell's acclaimed Mallory's Oracle (Putnam, 1994), thinks so. Noteworthy characters include a self-proclaimed "fashion terrorist" who barricades himself on Bloomingdale's roof, hurling insults at poorly dressed passersby through a bullhorn. Narrator Laural Merlington does a good job of managing the accents of the various characters, although her dialects sometimes fade. That is understandable, however, in light of the rapid-fire dialog. This recording will be welcomed in any public library.‘Reilly Reagan, Putnam Cty. Lib., Cookeville, Tenn.
O'Connell's driven and sharp-edged NYPD detective Kathleen Mallory revisits a 12-year-old double murder case first investigated by her beloved adoptive father, whose death was central to her notable debut in Mallory's Oracle (1994). The murder of a second-rate performance artist in mid-performance has many associations to the earlier, grisly and still unsolved homicides, which also touched the art world. Many of the same characters are involved in both killings: J.L. Quinn, the elegantly icy critic whose niece was one of the first victims; Avril Koozeman, whose galleries were murder scenes then and now; and Emma Sue Halloran, once a critic, now a culturecrat who forces hideous art into new buildings. Mallory and her partner, Sergeant Riker, must find keys to the new killing by prying memories from these witnesses. Hampering their efforts is the desire of the police brass to keep the old case closed. O'Connell's narrative force and character development are irresistible. Although the intense and private Mallory offers little to love until late in the story, her fierce determination draws the reader into her quest. Wacky artsy types and a flawed but sympathetic Riker leaven the heavy dose of misanthropy. O'Connell also delivers a cynical, funny lesson in art marketing, which sounds here less like culture than a pretentious pyramid scheme. 50,000 first printing; major ad/promo; author tour. (June)