CHALK GIRL, by Carol O’Connell

9/series. Mallory returns to the craziness of New York City, to a lost child with an odd medical condition, and other children who long ago were private school bullies. Now, someone’s playing out a bizarre revenge fantasy in Central Park. With the usual full cast of totally weird characters including socialites and cops, politicians and drug-addled felons, O’Connell almost pulls off the story. For me, the basic idea on which all is built is unsound: why would loving parents, faced with clear, continuing physical evidence that their child is being viciously tortured by classmates, stand by and do nothing? Their atonement is meaningless; in this rare case, the author has made characters who, as portrayed, are hard to believe could exist. The writing is, as always, a stellar and skilfull 5, but the basic idea is at best a 3. So...let's call it a 4.