The Chalk Girl

August 6, 2012 - The Chalk Girl (Carol O'Connell). NYPD Detective Kathy Mallory returns after three months of lost time that she refuses to account for with any kind of explanation at all. As penance, she's assigned to desk duty. But, when a peculiar little girl leads police to three people hanging from trees in Central Park, there's no stopping Mallory from getting assigned to the case of the so-called "Hunger Artist."

The investigation into two murders and one attempted murder leads Mallory and her partner, Det. Riker, down a path that winds 15 years into the past and straight to the doors of some of New York's most powerful and influential people. At the center of it all is a boy named Ernest Nadler, whose murder stayed a secret until Mallory started digging. By the end, Mallory will solve the present-day murders and avenge the sins of the past.

The plot is difficult to summarize because there are so many people and so many angles involved. Still, it's not that hard to follow because it's clear who the most central characters are. And, each chapter begins with a passage from the diary of Ernest Nadler. Those passages provide a common thread that ties the story together from beginning to end.

I think the most surprising element really has nothing to do with the case at all. For almost the entire book, the action takes place in the present and/or recalls events of the past. But, as the case draws to a close, O'Connell uses one character to give us a brief glimpse into the future – a distant future in which Mallory is long dead. As far as I can recall, this is the first time that O'Connell has directly referred to Mallory's death, and I can't help but wonder if it means that Mallory won't be around much longer.