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Blind Sight by Carol O’Connell

May 22, 2017

A very egalitarian killer.

The nun is dead, her body lies on the mayor’s lawn. And it isn’t alone. There are four of them altogether. They’ve been killed at different times, in different places, and dumped there. There should be five – but the boy is missing.

One second he was there…

Jonah Quill, blind since birth, sits in a car driven by a killer and wonders where they are going. Though he is blind, Jonah sees more than most people do. It is his secret, and he is counting on that to save his life.

Then gone.

Detective Kathy Mallory is counting on herself to save his life. It takes her a while to realise that the missing-person case she is pursuing is so intimately connected to the massacre on the mayor’s lawn. But there’s something about the boy she is searching for that reminds her of herself, all those years ago. She will find him – she just hopes it will be in time

There are some books you can devour in one setting because they are good, you want to know how they end and you just love the thrill of the ride. Then there are other books, just as good, if not better, where you know you have to take your time in order to do them full justice. Sarah Hilary’s books are the latter, as are Carol O’Connell’s Mallory books.

Blind Sight is the twelfth Mallory book and my goodness it is good. I love Mallory – an NYC detective unlike any other. Mallory has a fascinating back story, and it is worth reading these books from the beginning to really understand her psyche – not that anyone really does understand her. Rather she is tolerated because she is good, but she has scant regard for the rules, a mind like a steel trap and to under estimate her is a mistake you only make once.

Beautifully groomed, she drives a VW with a Porsche engine. She is street smart with a heart of darkness and she has no scruples in doing what has to be done in pursuit of a perpetrator.  Those few who know her well think she is just short of being a sociopath, the majority of her other colleagues find her cold, scary and well worth keeping on the right side of. They call her ‘The Machine’.

In Blind Sight, a blind child and a Catholic nun disappear from the sidewalk right in front of the passers-by. One minute they were there, the next they have vanished.

Detective Kathy Mallory and the NYPD’s Special Crimes Unit become involved when Sister Michael’s body is found with three other corpses in varying stages of decomposition. They have been left on the lawn of Gracie Mansion, the grace and favour home of the Mayor of NYC.  The victim’s hearts have been removed – these then turn up at City Hall where the Mayor’s aide surruptiously disposes of them by dumping them in the river.

The blind child, Jonah Quill, is still missing. The detectives are in the dark. They have to work out what is going on; whether and why the Mayor is involved and whether Jonah’s heart will be the next to be delivered.

Unlike many detective novels, we know who the killer is, and we know that Jonah is with him. What Mallory needs to do is to dig into the past of each victim in order to get to what the connection is between Jonah and the dead bodies.

What she discovers is a story of greed and corruption that is as twisted as any of the murders. With her partner, the long-suffering Riker and her one friend, Charles Butler – a man who lives his life for the crumbs that fall from Mallory’s table – she uses her knowledge of human nature to unravel a complex and tortuous tale of wrongdoing.

The clues to her investigation don’t come from Mallory, rather they are revealed as each of the characters tries to guess to what Mallory is up to and why she is pursuing a particular course of action. Unlike previous Mallory novels, there is little exploration of Mallory’s character and the part that her closest colleagues have in the story, but there are hints towards a darker tale to come.

O’Connell’s strength comes in her depth of characterisation and the scenes between Jonah, a child of remarkable resilience and his captor are very well described, allowing us to understand the resources the child has and what drives his would be killer and captor. Her writing is sublime and her plotting complex.

Time is running out and this story gets darker and more suspenseful as more of the plot is revealed. This is a story that is both intricate and involved and bears the hallmarks of a classic Mallory tale.

Even so, it is not, I think O’Connell’s best Mallory novel. The time is right to take Mallory in a new direction – but even though this is not the best of her Mallory books, it is still an outstandingly good read.

Blindsight was published in paperback by Headline on 4 May 2017

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