Monday, March 09, 2009

Carol O'Connell: Shark Music

This instalment in the Kathy Mallory saga is also known as Find Me, according to Fantastic Fiction, a website as ugly as it is informative. I'm not sure right now which ones I've read, but I can see I've blogged about none. Definitely the first one, Mallory's Oracle, and I'm also sure of no. 3, Killing Critics, 4, Flight of the Stone Angel, 5, Shell Game and 6, Crime School. In this trip down memory lane I am aided greatly by this page at Dancing Badger. Said Badger is very positive towards the novels in question, something I myself am not. Or no, that's not right. I like these novels, I think they're well written on the whole, the characterization is generally good, the mysteries are clever, and the heroine herself, Mallory, is compelling, ok, granted. But she is a bit too much. And at least in Shark Music her character is not made clear to us so much as by what she does as by the author telling us over and over again what she is. She is compulsively tidy - this we know not so much from descriptions of Mallory's person and surroundings (except briefly when her flat is described at the start, and towards the end when she starts to come undone and forgets proper maintenance). And this niggles at me when I'm reading, and confirms my impression of Mallory as a too-much character. She is so exceptional that the author has to rely on other people saying that "oh boy, she is something else" or just third-person telling us. I've never really understood, for example, why Riker (her partner) calls her a sociopath. Okay, so I'm a sloppy reader, but none of Mallory's actions really stood out for me as truly sociopathic. More like she was logical to the point of being somewhat autistic sometimes.

The Dancing Badger link I posted gives a much better review and summary than I can, so I'll spare myself the trouble. My opinions though are pretty much what I wrote above about the entire series. I found it a bit hard to get into the flow and grip of the book. It felt a little like the book was a box of building blocks that a child emptied out on the floor. A lot of separate little bits that didn't make a whole, and in themselves didn't have enough information to show the entire house that could be built. I'm not sure the metaphor entirely pans out, but it does descripe how I felt... slowly the blocks sorted themselves into piles of colours and shapes and I was able to discern a fuller picture and get the story straight in my head. These are not complicated novels, not by any stretch of the imagination, so it's just something to do with how they're written that makes it a bit cumbersome getting into them.

The biggest impression the Mallory novels have made on me is an overall, dark and somewhat Gothic idea of a New York with crumbling gargoyles on old sky-scrapers, gargoyles that more often than you'd think fall down and hit someone on the head. Also I have a vivid memory of reading one of the Mallory novels just after or before reading a Jeffrey Deaver novel with a similar theme - magic, or rather illusionists. As the link shows, I didn't even remember which novel it was at the time. I've also read the none-Mallory novel Judas Child, which I remember much more clearly. A very disturbing, sad, original story. One of the themes of Shark Music is Mallory's search for her father, in other words a continuation of the book where she returns to her childhood Louisiana to settle the score on her dead mother's account. I thus can't help but think of the former book, and become profoundly annoyed by the fact that I can't remember the important details of it, like how Mallory's mother was killed. Very irritating! But it says something about the series - it's uneven, in my opinion.

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