Mallory hits the road
in search of self and killer

''Find Me''
By Carol O'Connell
(Putnam, 352 pages, $24.95)
Buy at Amazon

Reviewed by John Orr
January 2007

Some of Carol O'Connell's wonderful Kathy Mallory novels are among the best crime fiction ever written, and the ongoing story of her tall, beautiful, ice-cold hero has captured the interest of many thousands of fans.

It's disconcerting that her latest, ''Find Me,'' tends to drag a bit.

Part of the problem is that we are supposed to believe that Mallory is having some kind of emotional breakdown, maybe slipping as a cop, and Mallory fans know that cannot happen.

Mallory isn't an iron hero, she's a titanium hero, and bullets and emotions bounce off her magnificent body like dimes off the best prize at a carnival toss.

Or, maybe it's that O'Connell just doesn't sell the idea well enough. Maybe she doesn't really want us to think that Mallory might, after all, be human.

This tale has Mallory driving at high speeds across Route 66 in a Volkswagen body tricked out with a Porsche frame and engine. She is tailing, then shepherding, a group of hopeful parents who have joined forces to look for their lost children.

Mallory has sussed out that serial killings of children have taken place for decades on the old highway, and knows that the parents themselves are fodder for the mysterious murderer.

Complicating things is the dead woman found in Mallory's apartment in New York, and the fact that Mallory has apparently just run off from her police department job.

Mallory finds clues both about the serial killings and evidence that her previously unknown father had traveled Route 66 before she was born. A mechanic she'd never met, upon seeing her for the first time, says, ''You're Peyton's kid, all right. You got his weird green eyes. Not another pair like 'em. And you got your mama's pretty face.''

For Mallory's fans, this book will be great fodder, because so much about her past is re vealed. But while it is still several cuts above most crime fiction, it still isn't up to O'Connell's best, such as ''Crime School'' or ''Dead Famous.''