cover image Mallory's Oracle

Mallory's Oracle

Carol O'Connell / Author Putnam Publishing Group $21.95 (0p) I

Serial killing, insider trading, the occult and the vices of wealthy Manhattan widows are the themes that collide in this heavy-handed first novel starring an unusual policewoman. Kathleen Mallory was an 11-year-old thief living on the streets of New York City when Detective Louis Markowitz rescued her and raised her in his home. The novel opens a decade later when Markowitz, a widower, is found dead beside the third in a series of Gramercy Park dowagers slashed and murdered in broad daylight. Mallory, whose early criminal instincts and keen intelligence have been loosely channeled into computer science, is forced to take a leave from the department and decides to seek vengeance on her own. O'Connell peoples her tale with colorful characters, both Mallory's allies and suspects, but there is little nuance to any of them. Particularly lacking in dimension is the heroine herself, who proceeds through the plot with a robot-like, if intense, predictability; the voices of Markowitz's friends repeatedly refer to Mallory's brilliance and appeal, but little in her actions suggests notable insight or charm. The broadly stroked narrative of this much-publicized debut has commercial potential, but the absence of subtlety or consistency suggests a short shelf life. 50,000 first printing; BOMC and QPB selections. (Aug.)