As a part of the former category, I was thrilled to discover novel number ten in O'Connell's Mallory series featuring the brilliant, beautiful, sociopath who is the law but doesn't quite object to bending it. The mystery presented in The Chalk Girl finds Mallory placed in desk duty after her unexplained absence but pulled into active service with a case of a serial killer stringing up victims from trees in Central Park. The only witness to the crimes is a young girl named Coco starving for human contact. Coco instantly latches on to the cold-hearted Mallory causing many - especially psychologist Charles Butler - to wonder if Mallory has a soft spot for a kindred spirit or if she's just using the girl's trusting nature as a means to solve her case.
Complexly layered with a storyline spanning past and present, O'Connell once again keeps the reader guessing throughout the entire story. Though I was a longtime Mallory fan when I picked this book up, the beauty of this series is that each entry can be enjoyed as a solid novel on its own. Granted, the back stories and character development of Mallory, her partner Riker, Charles Butler, and the rest of the well-drawn cast are painted over time throughout the series so that constant fans will have the benefit of closer ties to the key players, but that is not to say that newcomers to the books will enjoy this one any less.