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The reviews called it "A Play to Die For" after the woman was found dead in the front row. It didn't seem so funny the next night, when another body was found - this time the playwright's, his throat slashed.
Detective Kathy Mallory takes over, but no matter what she asks, no one seems to be giving her a straight answer. The only person - if "person" is the right word - who seems to be clear is the ghostwriter. Every night, an unseen backstage hand chalks up line changes and messages on a blackboard. And the ghostwriter is now writing Mallory into the play itself, a play about a long-ago massacre that may not be at all fictional. "MALLORY," the blackboard reads. "TONIGHT'S THE NIGHT. NOTHING PERSONAL. If Mallory can't find out who's responsible, heads will roll. Unfortunately, one of them may be her own.
I do not ordinarily enjoy stories which are dark, with little relief in the way of lighter passages. However, the skill with which Carol O'Connell writes her Mallory series draws me in and keeps me mesmerized to the end. That was the case when I read the first book almost 20 years ago, and it was still the case with the latest book, "It Happens in the Dark." When you combine O'Connell's superb text with Barbara Rosenblat's exceptional performance in narration, the result is unbelievably good.
Mallory (no one is allowed to call her Kathy, and only a few get away with it), who lived her early years as a feral street child in New York City, is a character who rarely shows emotion, other than contempt, yet O'Connell makes the reader pull for her. Those early years have shaped the way she interacts with other people, and once you get to know her, you can see "tells" that indicate emotions which she will never express. Mallory could be described as Eve Dallas in the "In Death" series without the human emotions Eve has learned to express. Mallory is also brilliant, and deduces things miles ahead of her partner, Sgt. Riker, but will never explain her conclusions to him. A strange and sometimes eerie character, but I love her.
This Mallory book concerns a string of murders during performances of a play on Broadway. The play is about a family massacre some years before, and it turns out that some of the actors were actually involved in one way or another with that massacre.
The Mallory books are dark, but usually do not contain much in the way of graphic violence or sex. It is probably better to start at the beginning of the series, in order to become familiar with some of the really quirky characters, to understand the relationships among the recurring characters and to get information on Mallory's background. I would recommend these books to anyone who appreciates exceptional writing. They are well worth your while.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
Read by Barbara Rosenblat who does a good job although she sounds a bit old for the twenty something Mallory. However a lot of the story is told from the viewpoint of other characters which works out pretty well. No dispute, Rosenblat is a good narrator and her work on the Amelia Peabody novels would be hard to top.
Back to this novel though. Kathy Mallory is brought in to investigate the death of the author of a Broadway play. In the Audience. At the end of the first Act. And then she finds that this is the second death during a performance of the play. But it appears that both deaths might have been natural. So Kathy has to work back toward the beginning and forward toward the conclusion.
She also has an older case that is involved with the current mystery.
Because I've liked Mallory ever since her first appearance in 1995. Therefore, it was easy enough to fill in the bits that the author doesn't really explain. Mallory seems less ambiguous and more annoying. The ghost writer starts out rather effectively but loses steam before the last revelation. Poor Charles is treated badly by both Mallory AND the author.
So go with this one if you like the series, otherwise go back to the first book in the series and read forward.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
If you could sum up It Happens in the Dark in three words, what would they be?
Who was your favorite character and why?
Although this book is not as good as some others in the series in developing the Kathy character, she is a complex and always interesting lead. The author also gives you a wide variety of characters, not a run of the mill mix.
What about Barbara Rosenblat’s performance did you like?
Rosenblat's narration is spot on--she understands the characters and the script. The reading is fluid and enjoyable.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Even if a person not having listened/read the Mallory series can fall captive with this story. This is an exciting story that draws you into the personalities and drama. I'm not talking about if you love them or not. Their flaws hold your interest. I keep hoping for something more, since Mallory was/ is such a strong character (and can be unlikeable). The story pulls you in, then dances with your imagination until you don't want to stop until the finale. This is not a book to be passed up.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
What would have made It Happens in the Dark better?
I love the Mallory series, but really miss Alyssa Bresnahan. I enjoy Barbara Rosenblat very much in other books, but this is read in a cutesy/"acting the story way" that is not suitable to the more noir aspects of these books. I'm nearly an hour in, and not sure I can keep listening. I may just go buy the book in paper and read it that way; this is very disappointing.
Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Barbara Rosenblat?
You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?
The stories in this series are always interesting, and I really recommend them.
2 of 3 people found this review helpful
After reading the other Mallory books in this series in paper, I was completely bamboozled and disgusted with this over dramatic and satiric narration: it distorted my image of the characters and made getting through the book a matter of will. Ugh.
I don't recommend this as an introduction to the Mallory series. I have read or listened to all the Mallory novels; I will probably read or listen to the next one. This book contains all the usual Mallory elements, and that's the problem. There's no new character development, no new challenge, no new revelation about Mallory. Her fan club of middle-aged men continues to adulate her while she treats them with indifference. She continues to exert a near-supernatural power over other people. O'Connell's most vivid and stylish character is New York itself.
Nor was this Rosenblat's best work, either. She read with a little too much ironic disdain.
The plot. Did I care about the plot, who killed whom and why? I was relieved when a particular character finally exited and hoped a few more would drop dead. The story just didn't convince me.
What did you like best about It Happens in the Dark? What did you like least?
This book was different from those that came before it. Not sure if I liked it. The narrator was abysmal!
How could the performance have been better?
Was It Happens in the Dark worth the listening time?
The narrator pretty much ruined it for me.
What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?
Another narrator, maybe
Would you ever listen to anything by Carol O'Connell again?
After this one, probably not. And I have all the others in this series.
Would you be willing to try another one of Barbara Rosenblat’s performances?
Any additional comments?
I don't know what happened here. The narrator probably. I simply couldn't listen to another word after about 45 minutes of torture.
Once again Carol O'Connell has written a winner.
This book is full of murders, mysteries, and villians. Each twisted character has a history and motive for mayhem. It unfolds in a theater around a play that just can't get through and beyond Act I. Every time I thought I had it all figured out a new motive or persona would appear. Mallory et al, each of them with their own dysfunctions, patiently work through it, sort it out, and bring about a satisfactory conclusion.
Barbara Rosenblat did an outstanding job of giving the various characters their own voices, maintaining the characters throughout, and even adding emphasis to some annoying behaviors.