Marcia Muller

Sharon McCone - P.I., All Souls Legal Cooperative, San Francisco, California


"The Ever-Running Man"

(reviewed by Chuck Barksdale SEP 22, 2006)

“Okay you asked…?”

“Why you call him the ever-running man.”

 He steepled his fingers under his chin.  “Because every time anyone’s seen him he’s been running away, and because we’ve been chasing him for two years.  It seems he’s capable of running forever.”

Ever-Running Man by Marcia Muller

The Ever-Running Man, Marcia Muller’s 25th novel starring Sharon McCone, the owner of the San Francisco detective agency McCone Investigations, continues the great and enjoyable series started 30 years ago (Edwin of the Iron Shoes).  In her latest case, Sharon is asked to help Renshaw & Kessel International (RKI), the company her husband, Hy Ripinsky, owns with his partners Gage Renshaw and Dan Kessel.  For the past two years, several offices of the company have had relatively minor explosions from relatively simple bombs, most of which have caused damage with only minor injuries.  

Read ExcerptThe only clues the partners had uncovered is that a man was often seen leaving the area a few minutes before the explosions.  The partners believe this “Ever-Running Man” must be out to get the company and the FBI and others have not yet been convinced to take action.  They decide they need to hire someone to help and the need for secrecy makes Sharon McCone the best candidate to help.

Sharon thinks that she needs to know more about all of the employees, especially the partners, to understand why the company is being targeted  She believes either an existing or former RKI employee or someone that the partners knew in the past is likely the person bombing the RKI facilities.  She enlists the help of her nephew Mick Savage, her lead computer forensics investigator, to gain as much information as he can on the partners.  Mick uncovers some interesting items on the past of both Renshaw and Kessel, some of which ends up being about a different Dan Kessel.

Mick also uncovers some information about Hy Ripinsky that appears to indicate that Hy may have done some work in the past that Sharon was not aware of and that she was not too happy to learn that Hy was involved.  This leads to a strain in the relationship between Sharon and Hy and she refuses to listen or address it while the investigation is ongoing.

While conducting the investigation more explosions occur, including one that nearly kills Sharon as she leaves the place where she is living temporarily while improvement work is being done on her home.  She also thinks she sees someone leave just before the explosion and believes she also has seen the Ever-Running Man. The explosions become more sophisticated as the Ever-Running Man appears to be getting more knowledgeable and more focused.  As the case progress, Dan Kessel ends up murdered and Gage Renshaw disappears.  Sharon and her operatives work hard to try to stop the Ever-Running Man before he ends up totally destroying RKI and killing all of the partners.

Although I read many more books written by male authors, Marcia Muller is by far my favorite female author.  I’ve read all of her novels and most of her short fiction as well.  Her books are very well written and have a comfortable and engrossing way about them.  Her characters are realistic and have definitely changed (generally in a good way) throughout the series.  New as well as long-time readers can enjoy her books.  For a while, the books in this series were too much about Sharon and her family and friends and although certainly they pay a big part of this book, I felt that the book was very much a good detective mystery and not as much “soap opera.”  Overall, The Ever-Running Man is a great and enjoyable addition to the series.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 24 reviews

Read a chapter excerpt from The Ever-Running Man at MostlyFiction.com

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"Vanishing Point"

(reviewed by Chuck Barksdale AUG 26, 2006)

Rae nibbled on a fingernail, looking out to sea.  “It’s a long shot, I think.

Twenty-two years ago, when Jennifer was ten, her mother, Laurel Greenwood, disappeared down in San Luis Obispo County.  One of those cases where it looks like the person’s either disappeared voluntarily or committed suicide, but everybody says, 'She never would have done that; it must be foul play.' And in this case they may be right.  There was no trouble in the Greenwood marriage.  Laurel was content with her life, a good mother, as well as a successful business-woman, and very involved in the community.”

Vanishing Point by Marcia Muller

Marcia Muller’s Vanishing Point is another great mystery starring Sharon McCone, the owner of McCone Investigations, a San Francisco detective agency. In this 26th book and 24th novel of the long running first person series, Sharon returns home from a quick Carson City, Nevada wedding to her long-term love Hy Ripinsky to find a party with many of her friends and co-workers. At the party, Sharon’s close friend and former assistant, Rae Kelleher, now a somewhat successful writer and still the wife of Sharon’s ex-brother-in-law, country singer Ricky Savage, talks to her about a possible case.  She wants Sharon to help her friend Jennifer Aldin, also the wife of Ricky’s financial manager, Mark Aldin.

After the recent death of her father, Jennifer is revisiting the strange and sudden disappearance of her mother Laurel Greenwood 22 years before when Jennifer was 10 years old and her sister Terry was 6.  Since a body was never found, Jennifer has never known if her mother is alive or dead.  Now with no parent, she has decided to hire the McCone Investigations firm to try to revisit the cold case of her mother’s disappearance.

Sharon, with help of several of her operatives, slowly develops leads about what really happened 22 years ago and in some cases since then.  She finds that the marriage of Laurel and the much older Roy Greenwood may not have been as good as it appeared to be as Laurel took more and more frequent day trips away from home just prior to her disappearance.  She also discovers that Laurel’s cousin Josie Smith was having an affair with Roy Greenwood prior to her cousin’s death shortly before Laurel’s disappearance.  Complicating Sharon’s investigation is the sudden disappearance of Jennifer Aldin in a similar way as her mother.  Nonetheless, Sharon and her firm press on to develop leads, conduct interviews, avoid verbal and actual attacks and slowly uncover information that may or may not be what Jennifer and her sister really want to find out.

As true of most of the McCone books, you do not need to read the early books to enjoy Vanishing Point. However, Marcia Muller does reward the faithful reader by bringing in long running characters, both from Sharon’s large and recently extended family as well as the coworkers from her early career.   One thing that I have been somewhat concerned about in the more recent books is that the back story has become the main story in too many of the books in the series.  This is much more balanced in Vanishing Point.  The main story is unrelated to Sharon’s life, but concerns about her marriage and her relationship with her birth and adoptive mothers are critical back story items.  And of course, the main strength of any Muller books are the characters.  In this book as in all the others, the new and old characters are all believable and consistent with what has been presented in prior books.

As I’ve mentioned in prior Marcia Muller reviews, I first became a fan of Marcia Muller through Bill Pronzini and their first collaboration, Double, which featured both of their private detectives, Sharon McCone and Nameless. I have since read all of the McCone books (having to go backward somewhat from Double), including the two great short story collections issued by Crippen & Landru (I have all of their books), the short 3-book series of Joanna Stark and Elena Oliverez, as well as the semi-series books of Soledad County.  Although some books are better than others, I have not been disappointed by any. 

  • Amazon readers rating: from 20 reviews

 



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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)

Sharon McCone Mysteries:

Elena Oliverez Mysteries

Joanna Stark Mysteries:

Collections:

Written with Bill Pronzini:

 

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Book Marks:

 

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About the Author:

Marcia MullerMarcia Muller was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1944. She received her bachelor's degree in English (1966) and master's degree in journalism (1971) from the University of Michigan. Upon graduation she moved to San Francisco Bay area to work as merchandising supervisor for Sunset magazine and then freelanced feature articles for a number of publications.

Muller published her first mystery, Edwin of the Iron Shoes, in 1977. The novel introduced Sharon McCone, investigator for the All Souls Legal Cooperative in San Francisco. It is generally acknowledged that Muller is the first American author to write a mystery series featuring a female private eye.

She has written more than twenty-five novels and many short mystery stories and has also established a brilliant reputation as an anthologist and critic of mystery fiction. In 1993 she was awarded the Private Eye Writers of America Life Achievement Award, and Wolf in the Shadows was nominated for the 1994 Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Crime Novel and won the Anthony Boucher Award.

She lives with her husband, mystery writer Bill Pronzini, in northern California.

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