“Judas Child” by Carol O’Connell

O’Connell, Carol. Judas Child (1998)  
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 340 pages, $24.95 hardcover  
ISBN 0 399 14380 7

Readers disappointed that Carol O’Connell’s latest novel doesn’t feature Kathleen Mallory will quickly forget their displeasure once they begin reading Judas Child. This is the most chillingly effective psychological novel I’ve read in a long time.

Fifteen years ago, in a small town in New York, 10-year-old Susan Kendall was kidnapped a few days before Christmas. Her body was found on Christmas morning. Now it has happened again: two 10-year-old girls in the same town have disappeared just before Christmas, one of them the daughter of the state’s lieutenant governor. Among the local police officers investigating the crime is Rouge Kendall, twin brother of the murdered Susan Kendall.

For Rouge Kendall, the new crime represents both a painful reopening of an old wound and an opportunity for atonement if he can solve this crime, save the girls’ lives, and understand exactly what happened to his sister. Also involved in the case are the state police, the FBI, and a forensic psychologist, Ali Cray, a woman with a badly scarred face and a hidden past. 

The local parish priest was convicted of Susan Kendall’s murder and sent to prison, but Ali Cray doesn’t believe he’s guilty. And several local residents seem to have a particular personal interest in the current case: Dr. Mortimer Cray, a psychiatrist and Ali’s uncle; Dr. William Penny, a heart surgeon who formerly served as medical examiner; William’s brother, Dr. Myles Penny, a general practicioner; and Eliot Caruthers, director of St. Ursula’s Academy, a school for unusually gifted children located in the town. 

Carol O’Connell unfolds the story slowly, carefully, and compellingly. The only thing I can find to criticize about this novel is poor Rouge Kendall’s unfortunate first name. 

Be sure to clear your schedule and order out for pizza before you crack the cover of Judas Child. Once you start reading, you won’t want to put this book down for 340 pages.

© 1998 by Mary Daniels Brown

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