What happens if Kathy Mallory, NYPD's finest sociopath with a golden shield, travels along the road with America's finest history attached to it: Route 66? You get a murderous trail of little bodies buried in the desert, a child killer and the writer's personal version of Dante's Purgatory.
There is a flaw in O'Connell's writings, but an eminent one: you need to travel with Mallory in the order in which her story is unfolding, all eight books before this one. This is not a marketing gimmick, this is the way O'Connell is developing one of the most unique characters in writing, and not only in crime writing.
"Find Me" is especially harrowing, as we're travelling with a host of parents along Route 66, searching for any sign of their missing children, many of them buried alongside this Mother of all roads. O'Connell is one of the few authors who can, and does, write about the devastation and hope of people who have gone through Dante's hell but still keep pursuing their bitter dreams about their lost ones, as if they need redemption themselves. We'll never know if Mallory has ever though about her own life in such terms as O'Connor has always rejected any cheap "psychological" solution, preferring instead to let the story unfold itself. And because Mallory and her "band of brothers" - no sisters here, except her foster mother Helen Markowitz - do indeed live a full life of drama and grim humour any reader worth his or her salt is drawn into these stories with a brutal force, brutal as life itself.
When writing this review I caught myself when typing the name "Kathy", as Mallory almost never accepts anybody using her first name. I had to remind myself that I'm writing about a fictional character. "Just Mallory," she introduces herself time and again, and I had to check myself not to look over my shoulder. Such is the power, etc...
To resume, yes, the thriller elements are there, and the plotting is, as usual, fiendishly convoluted. And when Mallory's green eyes fall like spotlights on that unhappy family of agents called the FBI you nearly wish them a safe career move. Another agency perhaps?
But in the course of Mallory's travels in those nine books you stand in awe of a writer who treats not only her protagonist en the circle around her with respect, but the reader as well, and that's rarity these days. We're never treated with pages of psychological explanations about the past of her characters; it is the story itself that gives you some insight, some glimpses of Mallory's own Route 66, with all the drama, grim humour and tragedies that are unfolded in clear prose. Including the marvellous way in which the first chapter is tied to the last one, in such a manner that the reader is taken totally by surprise. I'm sure I ended the book with just such a foolish grin as Charles Butler, one of Mallory's memorable friends.
There is this other author, Andrew Vachss, who's nearly as good as she is, especially with the ferocity in which he writes about a society that's quite willing to cannibalize its own children with a smile, but who somehow lost his sure footing with his protagonist Burke, probably the only fictional character who could understand Mallory.
O'Connell is human, and she could falter. So, every year or so when I open a new book of her, a new chapter of Mallory's life, I'm worried if it's good, but not as good as her last one. What will happen with her devoted readers then? Will they all become devote little sociopaths? Let us keep our fingers crossed. But for now O'Connell is, at least in the eyes of this reviewer, one of the truly great American writers. And this book confirms that again.
I have no green eyes.