Cover image for Shell game
Shell game
O'Connell, Carol, 1947-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1999.
Physical Description:
374 pages ; 24 cm
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library X Adult Fiction Popular Materials-Mystery
Central Library X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
Lackawanna Library X Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
Orchard Park Library X Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
Williamsville Library X Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
Julia Boyer Reinstein Library X Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense

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From the very first, Carol O'Connell's novels have won extraordinary praise. "O'Connell has raised the standard for psychological thrillers over the last four years," said the Chicago Tribune, and Booklist stated bluntly of Judas Child, "Few readers will be able to resist the charms of her lyrical prose, and anyone unmoved by the soul-shattering climax should give up reading fiction altogether."In Shell Game, she raises the standard once again. It is fall in New York City. The recreation of a legendary magic trick goes horribly awry on live television--a terrible accident, everyone agrees. But two people know it is not. One is an aged magician in a private hospital in the northern corner of New York state. What a worthy performance, he thinks, murdering a man while a million people watch.The other is Kathleen Mallory. Once a feral child, loose on the city streets, she is now a New York City policewoman, and not much changed--a tall young woman with green gunslinger eyes and a ferocious inner compass of right and wrong. For her, the death is too dramatic, too showy, and she is convinced that it will happen again--this perp loves spectacle. But even she cannot predict the spectacular chain of events that has already been set in motion, or the profoundly disturbing consequences it will have for those she holds most dear. For misdirection is the heart of magic. The lady never really gets sawed in half, does she?So why is there so much blood?Filled with the rich prose, resonant characters and knife-edge suspense that have won her so many admirers, Shell Game is Carol O'Connell's most remarkable novel yet.

Author Notes

Author Carol O'Connell was born in 1947. She attended the California Institute or Arts/Chouinard and Arizona State University, where she studied art. Before becoming a full-time writer, she worked as a freelance proofreader and copy editor as well as occasionally selling her paintings. At the age of 46, she wrote the first book in the Kathleen Mallory series and sold it to a British publisher. Her title The Chalk Girl made The New York Times Best Seller List for 2012.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Aging magician Oliver Tree dies tragically when his flashiest magic trick goes awry in front of a national television audience. The cops declare Tree's death accidental, but NYPD Detective Kathy Mallory thinks otherwise. She's determined to prove Oliver was murdered, but to do so, she must seek clues in a tragic love story with roots back to World War II. She must also confront Malakhai, a supremely gifted magician whose astonishing powers of illusion almost make a believer of the coldly skeptical Mallory. In Malakhai and the terrible conspiracy of secrets and lies from the past, Mallory almost meets her match. As those who've read previous O'Connell books know, Kathy Mallory's own near-mystical power to root out and destroy evil is considerable, but that power comes at a cost: this is a cold, cruel, remorseless, emotionless woman. And yet, in this story, O'Connell shows us a Mallory who, briefly, becomes a vulnerable human being. Once again, O'Connell has woven a rich, complex, memorable tale that will keep readers guessing and gasping through scenes filled with love, heartbreak, betrayal, and remorse. Another superb effort from one of our most gifted writers. --Emily Melton

Publisher's Weekly Review

O'Connell (Judas Child) deftly demonstrates her own sleight of hand as she recounts NYPD detective Kathleen Mallory's investigation of the "accidental" death of magician Oliver TreeÄwho died while trying to recreate on live TV the late Max Candle's most famous trick, in which a man survives the fire of four crossbows. As Mallory capitalizes on her friendship with Candle's beloved cousin, Charles Butler, to delve into a WW II mystery involving a group of elderly magicians, all colleagues of Candle and Tree, hints of Mallory's inner life begin to emerge. Once a street kid, the coldly efficient detective comprehends better than most the soul-deadening choices these men made to survive during the war and the cycle of repentance and retribution that have set a deadly game in motion. Mallory is drawn in by the seductive Malakhai, a master of misdirection who is always accompanied by the illusion of his long-dead wife, Louisa. While the detective, in search of answers, uses her high-tech skills to manipulate data banks and to amass information, Charles Butler is in his basement, trying to put together Max's great trick. Meanwhile, the stalwart Sergeant Riker, Mallory's unofficial guardian and staunch defender, is on call. O'Connell adroitly entwines the excitement of Manhattan's Thanksgiving Day parade with the world of illusion and the anguish of war. Her tough realism and hypnotic prose will leave readers eager for more. Author tour. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

O'Connell brings back New York detective Kathy Mallory in the fifth book in this highly praised series. Illusion has never been a part of Mallory's life. This no-frills, seemingly unemotional cop has learned the hard way that there is no magic in the world and that things are rarely what they seem. So when an old magician attempts the dangerous "lost illusion" and dies before thousands of live spectators and television viewers, she is the only cop who believes that the death is not the accident it seems but rather a carefully crafted and well-executed murder. The dead man was one of a group of aging magicians who, as boys of 18, had worked together as magicians' apprentices in occupied Paris during World War II. The men use misdirection and sleight of hand to divert Mallory. Meanwhile, in typical fashion, she tries her own brand of hard-edged cons and threats to find the truth. Reader Roberta Germaine's performance of this riveting story takes some time to get used to: her portrayals of Mallory's partner Riker and long-time friend Charles Butler are weak, and she falls back on stereotypes to convey the personalities too often. Her rendering of Mallory is somewhat better, although Germaine takes to whispering every internal thought, a habit that makes even the most mundane or sarcastic idea sound slightly sinister. However, her performance of the collection of aging magicians soars. Her accents and characterizations are distinct and wholly believable, and every scene in which any of the group appears is a pure pleasure. Recommended for popular mystery collections.DJennifer Belford, Addison P.L., IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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