Excerpt from Dead Famous by Carol O'Connell, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Dead Famous

A Kathleen Mallory Thriller

by Carol O'Connell

Dead Famous
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Sep 2003, 304 pages
    Sep 2004, 336 pages

  • Rate this book

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


JOHANNA COULD HEAR CAT'S PAWS MADLY THUDDING on the bathroom door, and the animal was crying in a human way--so frightened. Or was he merely hungry? She had fed the poor beast, but how long ago? No matter. The cat's cries receded, as though her front room had decamped from the hotel suite, floating up and away with utter disregard for gravity.

And time? What was that to her?

The whole day long, Johanna had not moved from her perch at the edge of a wooden chair. She sat there, wrapped in a bathrobe, as the sun moved behind the window glass, as shadows crawled about the room with a slow progress that only a paranoid eye could follow. One of the shadows belonged to herself, and the dark silhouette of her body was dragged across the wallpaper, inch by inch, extending her deformity to a cruel extreme.

Inside her brain was the refrain of a rock 'n' roll song from another era. "Gimme shelter," the Rolling Stones sang to her, and she resisted this mantra as she always did, for there were no safe places.

Perhaps another hour had passed, maybe three. She could not say when night had fallen. Johanna unclenched her hands and looked down at a crumpled letter, as if, in absolute darkness, she could read the words of a postscript: Only a monster can play this game.


THE BLACK VAN HAD NO HELPFUL LETTERING ON THE side to tell the neighbors what business it was about on this November afternoon. Here and there, along the street of tall brownstones, drapes had parted and curious eyes were locked upon the vehicle's driver. Even by New York City standards, she was an odd one.

Johanna Apollo's skin was very fair, the gift of Swedes on her mother's side. And yet, from any distance, she might be taken for a large dark spider clad in denim as she climbed out of the van, then dropped to the pavement in a crouch. Dark brown was the color of her leather gloves, her work boots and the long strands of hair spread back across the unnatural curve of her spine. Her torso was bent forward, her body forever fused into a subtle question mark as her face angled toward the ground, hidden from the watchers at their windows. They never saw the great dark eyes--the beauty of the beast. And now the neighbors' heads turned in unison, following her progress down the street. Dry yellow leaves cartwheeled and crackled alongside as she walked with a delicacy of slender spider-long legs. Such deep grace for one so misshapen--that was how the neighbors would recall this moment later in the day. It was almost a dance, they would say.

And none of them noticed the small tan car gliding into Eighty-fourth Street, quiet as a swimming shark. It stopped near the corner, where another vehicle had just taken the last available parking space.

The young driver of the tan sedan left her engine idling as she stepped out in the middle of the street. Nothing about her said civil servant; the custom-tailored lines of her designer jeans and long, black leather coat said money. And the wildly expensive running shoes allowed her to move in silence as she padded toward a station wagon. She leaned down and rapped on the driver's window. The pudgy man behind the wheel gave her the grin of a lottery winner, for she was that lovely, that ilk of tall blondes who would never go out with him in a million years, and he hurried to roll down the window.

Oh, happy day.

"I want your parking place," she said, all business, no smile of hello--nothing.

The wagon driver's grin wobbled a bit. Was this a joke? No man would give up a parking space on any street in Manhattan, not ever, not even for a naked woman. Was she nuts? He summoned up his New Yorker attitude, saying, "Yeah, lady--over my dead body." And she raised one eyebrow to indicate that this might be an option. The long slants of her eyes were unnaturally green--unnaturally cold. A milk-white hand rested on the door of his car, long red fingernails tapping, tapping, ticking like a bomb, and it occurred to him that those nails might be dangerous.

From Dead Famous by Carol O'Connell, copyright © 2003 Carol O'Connell, published by G.P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Of Arms and Artists
    Of Arms and Artists
    by Paul Staiti
    In the late eighteenth-century, the United States of America was still an emerging country, ...
  • Book Jacket: So Say the Fallen
    So Say the Fallen
    by Stuart Neville
    Noir crime fiction – Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett anyone? – is an American invention...
  • Book Jacket: The Mothers
    The Mothers
    by Brit Bennett
    Every now and then the publishing industry gushes about a young author destined to become the next ...
Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Bone Tree
by Greg Iles

An epic trilogy of blood and race, family and justice.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Les Parisiennes
    by Anne Sebba

    How the women of Paris lived, loved, and died under Nazi occupation.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Next
    by Stephanie Gangi

    Fast-paced, wickedly observant, and haunting in the best sense of the word.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Cruel Beautiful World
    by Caroline Leavitt

    A fast moving page-turner about the naiveté of youth and the malignity of power.

    Read Member Reviews

Win this book!
Win The World of Poldark

Win the book & DVD

Enter to win The World of Poldark and the full first series on DVD.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

One S D N M A S

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.


Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!

Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.