IF SUFFERING THE SLINGS OF OUTRAGED reviewers wasn't bad enough, now the sultans of SoHo's trendy art scene have something else to worry about: murder. As this crafty page-turner opens, the overhyped and undertalented Dean Starr is dispatched at his own opening, a fact undiscovered for over an hour because his death has been cunningly disguised as performance art. The exceedingly unusual MO jogs the memory of NYPD Sgt. Kathy Mallory; she recalls a sensational double murder from over a decade ago (it also took place in a gallery) that her late foster father, Inspector Louis Markowitz, never solved to his satisfaction.
Oddly, Mallory's superiors don't seem interested. In fact, the brass forbids her to delve into the old case. Readers familiar with the frostily beautiful street kid turned computer whiz from O'Connell's two previous mysteries know this is just the kind of challenge Mallory relishes. It's a treat to watch the always intriguing detective joust with her adversaries—especially when, as in this case, they include the deliciously satirized artsy set. O'Connell seems to take as much delight in slicing and dicing them as the killer does. (Putnam, $23.95)