O’Connell, Carol. Stone Angel (1997)
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 341 pages, $24.95 hardcover
ISBN 0 399 14234 7
In Stone Angel Charles Butler tracks Mallory to Dayborn, Louisiana, where she’s gone in search of her past: “Though she had buried it deep, the act had come back in bits and pieces of unguarded thoughts and violent dreams. . . When Markowitz died, her life had begun to unravel. Ugly images had plagued her every day since she had laid the old man in the ground” (pp. 64-65). Charles, having recognized Mallory’s face in a stone angel shown in a newspaper article about famous plantation gardens along the River Road in Louisiana, has come to Dayborn looking for the sculptor, Henry Roth.
O’Connell paints vivid pictures of several local people who figure prominently in Mallory’s story: Miss Augusta, an elderly, eccentric recluse; Sheriff Tom Jessop; Lilith Beaudare, a cousin of Augusta, who trained at the police academy and has just come to Dayborn to work as a deputy; and Malcolm Laurie, who runs the New Church, “miracles for sale.” The Laurie clan have taken over most of the town; many residents have turned over their land to the New Church in return for a place to live until they die. These characters control the dynamics of the closed, small-town society. And as the story progresses the setting gradually becomes more and more surrealistic—James Lee Burke meets Shirley Jackson.
Sheriff Jessop asks the question we’ve all been wondering about when he addresses the jailed Mallory:
“What the hell happened to you out there?” He grasped the bars again. “You were the sunniest child. Look at you now. You got the coldest eyes I’ve ever seen. If I knew who did this to you, I swear I’d kill him.” (p. 66)
Readers who have stuck with Mallory through the three earlier novels are well rewarded here as they, along with Mallory, learn the answer to that question.
© 1998 by Mary Daniels Brown