It Happens in the Dark

December 10, 2014 - It Happens in the Dark (Carol O'Connell). For the second book in a row, the author makes a direct reference to the death of her main character, NYPD Detective Kathy Mallory. It comes at the very end of the book in a scene where another character, Charles Butler, is in his nineties, perhaps near death himself, and reminiscing about the long-dead Mallory and a case which showed that Mallory does, perhaps, have a heart.

The case begins when a fairly well-known playwright named Peter Beck is found dead in the theatre where his latest work has just debuted. His death looks like a possible suicide, but Mallory pegs it as a murder. Soon, the play's former director, Dickie Wyatt, turns up dead. His death looks like an overdose, but Mallory says murder. And, when she discovers that the plot of the play bears an eerie similarity to a real-life mass murder in Nebraska, Mallory sets her sights on solving that cold case along with the murders in her own jurisdiction.

Along the way, she gets help from the usual cast of characters, including psychologist Charles and her partner, Riker. But, in this novel, the circle widens to include more NYPD detectives and an insane stagehand named Bugsy. Bugsy's plight seems to touch Mallory, and when things end badly for Bugsy, Mallory exacts revenge on his behalf.

Overall, not a bad read. If you'll pardon the pun, this story of murder in the theatre world is largely a character study. Many of the players here act like someone else – whether it's by putting on costumes, taking drugs, having surgery or getting lost in a character. Mallory herself is a master of this kind of deception. Charles, who can pick up other people's "tells" with ease, can never figure her out.

Mallory does seem to be maturing, however. In this book, she seems more willing to ask for help and to accept the contributions of others. Mallory is still pulling all the strings, but she realizes that this case will involve a lot of strings. Is asking for help – in her own way, of course – a sign that Mallory is growing up? Learning to play well with others? Not totally, but maybe a baby step forward.

One thing, though, did bother me. O'Connell writes well and turns some nice phrases, but I felt that the copy went overboard on the use of italics. Difficult to say if that was O'Connell or her editor, but the heavy use of italics does seem to be a departure from previous novels.

Back now to this second reference to Mallory's death. I'm trying to do the math. In my head, Mallory would seem to be about 30 (give or take a couple of years). Also in my head, I picture Charles Butler as older than her, somewhere in his forties. In the flash forward, he's mid-nineties and it's "long after" the death of Mallory. How long defines "long after?" How long does Mallory have left? At least one more book, I think.