Marcia Muller

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


"The Dangerous Hour"

(reviewed by Chuck Barksdale JUL 24, 2004)

Two men near the top of the stairway. Plainclothes police officers; I recognized one. He stood poised to assist as his partner struggled with Julia Rafael, attempting to handcuff her. She bent over, kicking backward at his shins, trying to break his grasp. Beyond them Ted and Mick stood, looking confused and helpless.

“You have the right to speak to an attorney…”

Confusion gripped me, too. “What the hell’s going on here?” I demanded.

Before either man could reply, Julia screamed, “Help me, Shar! I didn’t do anything!” Then the fight went out of her, and she collapsed, nearly taking down the officer.

The Dangerous Hour by Marcia Muller

Marcia Muller’s The Dangerous Hour is another great mystery starring Sharon McCone, the owner of McCone Investigations, a San Francisco detective agency. In this 23rd novel of the long running series, Sharon’s new operative, Julia Rafael, is arrested for stealing a credit card and ordering gifts for herself from Alex Aguilar, a former client and a member of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors as well as a Founder and Director of Trabajo por Todos--Work for All--a Mission-district job-training program designed to bring the city’s disadvantaged Hispanics into the mainstream.

Julia, a single mother and awoman who is trying to turn her life around after a difficult time, is a recent hire of Sharon’s. Sharon has entrusted her, but her trust is somewhat questioned when gifts with Julia’s name are found in Julia’s apartment storage area. After talking to other members of her agency, Sharon regains her confidence in Julia and uses all of her resources both within the agency and out to investigate the allegations against Julia. This leads Sharon to look into Supervisor Alex Aguilar. She soon finds that Alex is not what he seems and that he has a past that he needs to keep secret. She also discovers that the allegations against Julia are likely a setup to go after Sharon and McCone Investigations. Sharon and her team work together and separately to further uncover the necessary clues to unravel this mystery to save the agency.

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, including the two great short story collections issued by Crippen & Landru, and I have not been disappointed by any. Marcia Muller has allowed Sharon to change and grow (and age slowly) over the long running series, thus keeping the stories fresh and interesting. Certainly, the early, young and inexperienced Sharon McCone of Edwin and the Iron Shoes and other early books, is very different than the agency-owning Sharon McCone of The Dangerous Hour and other recent books. However, Marcia Muller presents the maturing Sharon through the entire series in a very interesting and convincing progression.

Readers of the recent books do not need to read the early books or even the previous Dead Midnight (which introduces Julia Rafael) to enjoy The Dangerous Hour. 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. Devoted readers of Marcia Muller will be pleased to see Elena Oliverez make a small, but significant appearance.

If you are a long time fan of Marcia Muller’s Sharon McCone series you will not be disappointed by another great entry in this series. If you are a new reader, this is certainly the time to start, but I doubt you will end here as many great books await you.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 23 reviews

Read a chapter excerpt from The Dangerous Hour at TWBookmark

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"Dead Midnight"

(reviewed by Cindy Lynn Speer SEP 8, 2002)

"Two People with connections to InSite had vanished --- one voluntarily, the other maybe not. Had Tessa Remington, like Jody Huston expressed fear for her life?"

Dead Midnight by Marcia Muller

It's a case that private eye Sharon McCone seriously doesn't want to take. The parallels between Robert Nagasawa's suicide and that of her own brother's months earlier are too heart wrenching. They force her to think of her own reactions after her brother's death, and the regrets and anger she has. It also makes her the perfect detective for the job. She is able to empathize with the family, with their anger and sadness. The Nagasawa family is familiar with a lawsuit that was upheld in Tokyo, where a family sued a company for killing their son though overwork. They know Robert's job had terrible pressures and want to follow this route. Sharon's job is to gather evidence for the suit.

Read excerptWhat unfolds is much worse than anyone would have thought. The high stress world of the Internet 'Zine brings on physical as well as emotional attacks on employees, and according to Robert's journal, someone at the company is doing some really shifty dealings. He was determined to find proof of InSite's real agenda, and show the world; but his determination crumbled one night, when he jumped off a bridge on St. Valentine's Day. What changed? Sharon needs to find out, before the people running the scheme Robert wanted to unmask kill his neighbor, Jodi, who knows more than is good for her.

The underlying current of how people deal in the aftermath of a successful suicide really affects the prose of this book. We hear it through the main character's own thoughts, we see it through her own eyes as the other members of Nagasawa's family and friends deal with what, in some ways, is the ultimate betrayal. It pins the story down, making it a commentary on this type of loss and a rare point of view. Often these suicide victim stories are focused on proving that the victim was actually murdered; but these people, we discover pretty much right away, are not given this cold comfort. It is an unusual tact for a mystery, and it makes the story stronger, forcing McCone to go after the reasons leading up to the event, instead of working backward from the death. This hinges heavily on learning more about the Internet magazine InSite, a place more rife with hatred and back stabbing than most major governments. The characters we meet here are complex, and any of them could have been the one to give Robert the proverbial last straw.

The main strength in this series is Sharon's support group at her detective agency. She has an office filled with interesting people, each who has their own areas of expertise (even though sometimes the expertise is totally wrong for a detective firm). The dynamics between them are a tiny bit confusing sometimes because I don't have the background of the earlier books (and there are lots of them) to give me the proper links. I liked them though; especially street-wise Julia Rafael, whose past would give anyone nightmares, and who has taken control of her life with grim determination. These people work well with McCone, strengthening her for us as a character.

I found myself really enjoying this latest installment in the series; the ending was really quite cool, and watching Sharon unravel the clues made for good reading.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 25 reviews

Read a chapter excerpt from Dead Midnight at MostlyFiction.com



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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)

Stand-alone Mysteries:

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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