O’Connell, Carol. Mallory’s Oracle.

NY: Putnam, 1994.

When New York Police Inspector Louis Markowitz found eleven-year-old Kathleen Mallory living on the street and breaking into cars, she was, in his words, an “amoral savage.” Rather than do the paperwork to send her to Juvenile Hall, he took her home and his deeply caring wife informally adopted her.

A dozen years later, Mallory (never “Kathy” except to a few close friends, and not often then) is a Sergeant in Special Crimes, a computer specialist and a very talented hacker. Then Markowitz turns up murdered, along with a wealthy matron from Gramercy Park, the victims of a serial killer he was investigating. Mallory is determined to find the killer and she won’t allow laws and departmental regulations to get in her way. But the more she investigates — not always successfully, since she lacks field training and experience — the more complex the case becomes, revolving around a group of blue-haired little old ladies who are also financial sharks, and a weekly séance, and an ingenious scam.

Mallory is a fascinating character, tall and beautiful, capable of concentrated violence, and with a mind like a razor. She’ll never be entirely civilized, though her would-be protector, Charles (a genius of another sort), doesn’t much care and supports her in all things. The supporting cast also shows promise and O’Connell has a way with dialogue and descriptive passages, which makes this a delightful read. This is the first in a best-selling series, so I’ll be chasing down the others.

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