Summary and book reviews of Shell Game by Carol O'Connell

Shell Game

By Carol O'Connell

Shell Game
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  • Hardcover: Jun 1999,
    374 pages.
    Paperback: Aug 2000,
    416 pages.

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Book Summary

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 re-creation 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.

Prologue

The old man kept pace with him, then ran ahead in a sudden burst of energy and fear-as if he loved Louisa more. Man and boy raced toward the scream, a long high note, a shriek without pause for breath, inhuman in its constancy.

Malakhai's entire body awoke in violent spasms of flailing arms and churning legs, running naked into the real and solid world of his bed and its tangle of damp sheets. Rising quickly in the dark, he knocked over a small table, sending a clock to the floor, shattering its glass face and killing the alarm.

Cold air rushed across his bare feet to push open the door. By the light of a wall sconce in the outer hallway, he cast a shadow on the bedroom floor and revolved in a slow turn, not recognizing any of the furnishings. A long black robe lay across the arms of a chair. Shivering, he picked up the unfamiliar garment and pulled it across his shoulders like a cape.

A window sash had been ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews
Booklist

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.

Publishers Weekly

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.

Kirkus Reviews

At the close, the brilliantly devious culprit is made to suffer brought to the special kind of justice shaped by Mallory's rules. Too long for its thinnish plot and tending, every so often, to mark time. Mallory, however, retains all her feral, sullen, paradoxically endearing components, so it's probable that series fans won't mind the muchness overmuch.

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