16 November 2011

Literary Drive-By #00003: It's Raining Books!

I am a rich, rich girl. Two nights this week, so far, I have come home to unexpected printed bounty. My darling friend Jane, or Sodium as she has recently wanted to be called (don't ask me why; part of Jane's charm is  that she is largely inexplicable and unintelligible), had sent me books for my birthday, or I assume they're for my birthday, since there was no note. And not just any books. Books I actually wanted to read. In fact, that very day I was digitally fondling Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and wondering when I would buy and read it. How weird is that? The other book I had been eyeing, but we'd not yet gotten to first base: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. In fact, as soon as I opened the box and saw Miss Peregrine, I knew my mysterious friend had been thinking of me. Confirmation came in the form of: "Jane sent you this." I love Jane, even though I almost never see her and she's allergic to the telephone. Or maybe that's why....

The second night I came home to an Advance Reader's Copy of Chalk Girl by mystery writer extraordinaire, Carol O'Connell. This woman flies under the radar of the genre I think, but she is a treasure. She invented Mallory, and Mallory, I think is at the top of my fictional detectives list. (One can never be absolutely sure about these things. I mean, there's Wimsey, and Flavia de Luce, et al.)

Chalk Girl is the latest in the Mallory series of mysteries. They started in the 90s and kind of blew open the door to the mystery genre for me, because they, the protagonist, and the supporting characters were so very different from what you usually encounter. They are set in NYC, are extremely dark, and get down uncomfortably deep into psychological motives, even for the initiated. The prose is exquisite and by the end of a book, you're usually devastated, in that sacred way that fiction can do. The best part is the main character, Mallory. She's a mystery herself, and unraveling her story through the series is part of what's cool about the books. She is gorgeous, thoroughly brilliant, taciturn, joyously lethal, frighteningly aloof, appears to be amoral and is generally considered by those who love her to be a sociopath. (The relationships drawn between her and her small circle are...well...beautiful and revelatory.) Her origins are dark, heartbreaking and mysterious. Much of the story is dedicated to trying to figure out why she is the way she is and just how far she will go to meet her aims. 

O'Connell writes the occasional stand-alone (Judas Child will break your heart, to keep beating that dead horse), but it's been five or six years since the last Mallory, and the way it ended could lead one to believe that there would be no more. 

If I were you, I would start with Mallory's Oracle. NOW!