Excellent books with Kathleen Mallory going back to her home town. Strange things are happening.
The perfect culmination to Mallory's backstory. In a sublimely-paced evolution of character -- both in terms of emotional damage and internal complexity -- O'Connell caps her trilogy of MALLORY'S ORACLE, THE MAN WHO CAST TWO SHADOWS and KILLING CRITICS with a "final chapter" both rich in its own complex identity and profound with revelations about the origin and futures of her over-reaching cast. While this book does not mark the end of Mallory's journey as a whole, it is an incredibly satisfying resolution to the stepped progression Mallory's past and the mystery of her mother's murder -- so much so that, taken as the capstone of a trilogy-plus-one sequence rather than simply on its own merits as a stand-alone, STONE ANGEL succeeds in a way no single novel can.
This is the best of all the Mallory novels (later novels included), but unlike the others, it does not stand alone. While the plot itself does open and resolve within the span of pages from cover to cover, the lion's share of STONE ANGEL's more profound content predicates itself on the previous three books, drafting off the momentum of their emotional complexity and deep inter-character dynamics to deliver its own knock-out punches with a power that requires time and distance to achieve.
STONE ANGEL is the payoff to a long-term investment. Without the appropriate foundation beneath it, the novel is very good but not great: a showcase for O'Connell's lyrical use of language, incredibly rich characters, and unexpectedly riotous sense of dark humor. With the appropriate foundation (MALLORY'S ORACLE, THE MAN WHO CAST TWO SHADOWS, KILLING CRITICS ... in that order) however? STONE ANGEL is as good as fiction gets.
Female dectective returns to her hometown in Louisiana to solve a case that she has been obsessed with since childhood. Rich characters. Imaginative. This book grabs your attention early and holds it throughout...