Dead Famous

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

New York police detective Mallory (first name Kathy, but no one gets to call her that) takes drastic action to get her partner Ryker (first name finally revealed) out of the total slump and psychological paralyses he has been in for six months after being almost fatally shot.

Mallory involves Ryker in a bizarre “game” staged on air by Ian Zachary, a hate mongering “shock-jock” who rewards listeners for locating remaining members of a jury who are being murdered one by one. Zachary sees the on-going murders as a way to increase the ratings of his call-in show. Ironically, these are jurors who had voted Zachary himself not guilty in the relevant trial.

People and their actions are seldom what they seem. A main character and the first to be introduced, for example, is Johanna Apollo, a hunch-backed woman who cleans up crime scenes, but only if the crime was murder. She has another name as well, and another profession, and an intimate connection to the jurors-hunt, and soon to Ryker.

The initial introduction to Mallory is seeing her commandeer a parking space when she is trailing Johanna. In typical fashion, Mallory does not bother to flash her police badge, but instead intimidates the man merely by tapping her long red fingernails on his car, looking at him with her unnaturally green and unnaturally cold eyes, and giving him a glimpse of the huge gun in the shoulder holster beneath her long black leather coat.

But it is difficult even for Mallory to keep up with who is trailing whom, what with double identities, FBI agents suspicious of each other, police spying on the feds and vice versa, and Internal Affairs police trailing Ryker, not to mention the criminals themselves as hunter and hunted. Carol O’Connell is a master of the psychological thriller, and she continues to raise the bar with Dead Famous.