Author Carol O'Connell has been doing this series long enough that this latest volume reads like a well-oiled machine with a fast pace and a macabre sense of humor, that's somewhat balanced by main character Kathy Mallory having a heart of gold beneath her well groomed but stone cold exterior. Mallory was out in the world on her own from a very young age and it shows in the ruthless survival skills she brings to her police work. This is the first Kathy Mallory novel I've read and it was a little bit like coming late to a party after all the in jokes have already been established. Mallory's police partner thinks she's a lark and takes satisfaction in watching people react to her threatening, not-by-the-book methods. Her boss is resigned to looking like a fool because she always ultimately gets the best of him. Like Lisbeth Salandar of Dragon Tattoo fame, Mallory has awesome computer sleuth skills that leave the men in her department grateful but spooked.Chalk Girl is written with a third person narrator, and readers are allowed inside just about everyone's head except Mallory's, enhancing the feeling that she's aloof, inscrutable and more allegoric than fully human. The book's gruesome and especially creative/bizarre murders are discovered with the help of a little girl, Coco, who has William's Syndrome, a condition that gives her a wide range of symptoms, including extreme friendliness and musicality, that helpfully manifest in rapid succession, one by one, in the in the early stages of the plot's development. There's a tug of war between Mallory, who wants to get information from Coco to solve the crimes, and Charles Butler, a psychologist who wants to protect Coco from Mallory's incessant and, he believes, insensitive questioning.I prefer main characters that are less mythic and more flesh and blood, but Chalk Girl will be just the thing for fans of complex, grisly, suspenseful mysteries with a larger (and prettier) than life protagonist.