The Chalk Girl by Carol O'Connell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I love the darkness in the Mallory mysteries. If there's only one quibble it's that there are far too many mentions of the people who owed Mallory's adoptive father favors, and thus her; ditto her lack of empathy and other sociopathic tendencies, as well as her driving abilities.
The title refers to a schoolgirl who committed suicide before the class photos were taken, and so all that remained of her was the chalk outline of her body. How this fits in to the plot I'll leave for readers to discover. Our killer has strung three people up in trees in the Central Park Ramble, blocking their eyes, nose and mouth so they die slowly from dehydration. The bodies might not have been found were it not for the fact that Coco followed her Uncle Red when "he had his body delivered to the park and turned into a tree"; Coco has Williams syndrome, which leads to an unnatural need for human connection and she bonds with Mallory, much to Charles' distress.
These three bodies lead to a cold case from 15 years earlier, corruption, money laundering and some classic Mallory moments. All the men who knew, and loved, her foster father are included, and as usual she completely steps on their residual affection for her. Her techniques are entirely questionable, yet effective.
Sadly, I now have another 2-3 years to wait before the next one.