Carol O'Connell's Killing Critics is her third Kathleen Mallory mystery, and they just continue to get better. This book has it all: complex plot, memorable characters and some brilliant detective work.
An artist, Dean Starr, is discovered murdered in the middle of an art gallery exhibition. His death is made to look like performance art. NYPD Special Crimes Unit detectives Mallory and Ricker are called in to investigate. Twelve years previous, there was a brutal double homicide in an art gallery owned by the same man, and the circumstances are very similar. Mallory's late father, Markowitz, was on that case and although he got a confession and a conviction, he never for a minute believed that he had the right man. As Mallory and Riker find out more about this new murder, the more parallels there are to the old one. Yet, the NYPD considers the old case closed, and will not allow them to "officially" investigate. The list of suspects is very long, and there are also a good number of people who would like to see the murders remain unsolved. Those in high ranking office are vulnerable including the police commission and a state senator.
In Killing Critics, O'Connell gives us a crash course on the New York City art world, including artists, works of art, galleries, gallery owners, art shows, art critics, art patrons and art investors. It truly is fascinating. She also opens the door wider into Mallory's troubled childhood, and we better understand why she remains so scarred. All the major characters (Mallory, Riker and Butler) are fleshed out in greater detail.
Two things kept me from giving this book five stars. First, I thought it was a bit slow at the beginning, although it quickly picked up speed and the ending will blow you away. Second, I thought it stretched O'Connell's credibility to have Mallory challenge a former Olympic gold medalist to a fencing duel (she only had one semester of fencing in college). Still, these criticisms aside, this is an awesome story and O'Connell is one of the few writers who gives us mysteries with meat.