James Rollins' The Devil Colony, the ninth Sigma Force novel, has all the ingredients of a "hidden history" thriller, building an elaborate mystery on a few odds and ends and quirks of the actual histories involved. It's fun enough if you dial your brain way, way down and don't ask questions like, "Why would east coast Iroquois Indians make plans with the Founding Fathers that rely on a lost city in what is now Wyoming?" Or, "Where would a people who might be one of the Lost Tribes of Israel get blondes and redheads in their number?" Or, "Why would this group write in some kind of 'proto-Hebrew' when Masoretic Hebrew can be reliably dated to a couple of centuries before they produced the artifacts Collins uses?"
Collins does a lot of telling us things instead of showing them to us, usually in the narrator's voice although now and again through some words from one character or another. He's been gradually upping the confrontation between Sigma and the Guild over the series, rather than just have a G.I. Joe vs. Cobra series of endless fights, so he may move back into narrative as it continues.
Readers have learned over the previous eight Mallory novels that our heroine is rather odd herself. She fled Louisiana after seeing her mother murdered and lived as a street kid in New York City until an attempt to steal from an NYPD detective gave her a home, and later on as an adult, a purpose.
Although Mallory herself has little sense of humor, her machinations to get her off of psychologically-mandated rest time and back out in front of this odd case are worth a laugh or two, and O'Connell has a dry, witty way of writing some of the politics and public relations angles of police work. But that wit doesn't go far enough, as The Chalk Girl devolves into a more gruesome version of a Law and Order: SVU episode and we have to put up with a good three-quarters of the male cast being secretly in love with Mallory, one way or the other. The detective is rather abrasive and irritable, not particularly interested in other people's issues or their feelings. O'Connell says she considers her character a sociopath herself, unable to really feel empathy with others and pursuing justice for her own ends
She's a strange sort of sociopath, then, showcasing the feelings she's not supposed to have at odd times and in odd situations, whenever O'Connell seems to need her to in the story. She's seventeen moves ahead of everyone else, shown as so brilliant you might wonder why she doesn't have the crime solved before it's committed. And since O'Connell never really goes anywhere with this character trait, just repeating its existence and impact over and over again, The Chalk Girl winds up pretty easily erased from memory.