shannon_a: (Default)
Finished this mystery novel on the plane yesterday. It's been quite a while since I've read one of the Sharon McCone mysteries, mainly because my local library didn't have this particular book, so I could never pull it off the shelf spontaneously.

This was somewhat of a transition book in the metaplot, as it features McCone setting up her own agency and trying to come to terms with her relationship with her beau, Hy. I was afraid that the latter plot wasn't going to be finalized, but it came to a good end (if a cliffhanger, as Hy offers to talk about his secret background just as the book ends).

The actual mystery concerns a college chum who looks McCone up and asks for her help dealing with harassment he's been experiencing. It starts off really slowly, as McCone just treads water dealing with new harassment as it appears. I wasn't loving it much. Then there's an explosive conclusion to the first part of the book and suddenly McCone is on her own and investigating and all is at it should be.

This book was rather interesting for the fact that it sent McCone across the United States, which I think was a first, though it was still bookended with plenty of good San Francisco background. There was also quite a nice investigatory thread once things got going.

Overall, a good book, as I've found generally is the case for Muller.
shannon_a: (Default)
Of all of the detective novels that I've started reading over the last few years, the Sharon McCone mysteries remain my favorites. She combines fair & interesting mystery crafting with great characterization and wonderful local feel.

This one was about McCone's latest love interest going missing. The initial investigation as McCone tracks him down through San Diego was one of those mysteries that was so well laid out that it made me want to base an RPG adventure on it. It was really nice seeing the pieces come together by book end.

The San Diego (and later) Mexico background was all presented extremely well. I truly feel like I know a lot more about the area from having read this fictional account.

I also found it interesting that this book felt very much like a transition novel, with McCone left with a few options for where her life could go at book's end. Coincidentally one of the other books that I recently read, Phoenix by Steven Brust, had the exact same messaging. In both series, I'll look forward to where they go next.
shannon_a: (Default)
The Sharon McCone mysteries are the ones that I've most loyally read, since starting up with some non-Parker mysteries a couple of years ago. And this newest book (well, newest in that I'm up to 1992) really shows me why.

First up, Muller offers a deftly crafted and multi-faceted mystery. We have murder, blackmail, and petty revenge all in the picture, with a couple of different predators preying on victims in a couple of different ways. It's a lot of fun to read, and this book is another one that I'd consider adapting to an RPG mystery from, like I did with a Jack Vance mystery last year.

Second, Muller offers great Bay Area color. There were a couple of areas, particular some rich suburbs around Land's Eye, that Muller really brought to life.

Third, Muller fills her book with interesting characters with many different motives.

Fourth, Muller continues to develop her main character, Sharon McCone.

Much to my surprise, Muller ends this book on a bit of a cliffhanger. It looks like we may get to learn some of the secrets of McCone's newest beau in the next volume.
shannon_a: (Default)
I started off the next Sharon McCone book on the plane back from Hawaii and just finished it.

As in a few of the McCone books preceding this one, Muller decides to move much of the action out of San Francisco, here to "Tufa" Lake. I say "Tufa" because it's a made-up lake which is at least partially based on Mono Lake. There's similarly a made-up town, "Promiseville", which is based on Bodie. I don't particularly like it when authors make up locales that are meant to be stand-ins for real locales, but maybe Muller decided that she needed to muck with the history of Mono & Bodie enough that she wasn't willing to attach the real names.

In any case, it's another fine McCone case, with lots of mystery, but even more focus on McCone's personal growth as she starts to come to grips with who she really is.

We're also ever so slowly lurching into the future, with this 1991 book making a few references to "The Big Quake". I suspect they were entered at the last minute in the draft, since Muller doesn't even use the term "Loma Prieta", which has been attached to "The Big Quake" (of '89) for as long as I can remember.
shannon_a: (Default)
My last book of the year (with 7.5 hours to spare) was Trophies and Dead Things, the 11th Sharon McCone mystery by Marcia Muller.

This was one of my favorites, because it centered around two mysteries born of the 1960s, one involving Vietnam vets and the others involve Free Speech and peace protesters from the UC Berkeley campus. I quite enjoyed the focus on history and on Berkeley (even though Muller twists the occasional detail of the latter enough to make it obvious that she's less familiar with the city than her protagonist, who went to school here, is supposed to be).

Muller also places a lot of emphasis on McCone's circle of friends, perhaps moreso than in any of the other books, and in doing so reveals that they're a vivid part of McCone's mythology too.

Overall, a good book, both for the local color that I was looking for when I started this series and for the mystery. I'm pretty sure I'll plan to bring another McCone book with me to Hawaii, as they're great plane reading.
shannon_a: (Default)
Had a lost weekend, in which I pretty much sat at home and read. Since I've been a'home for about a week now, everything feels foggy and lazy.

One of the benefitors of that was The Shape of Dread (1989), the next book in the Sharon McCone series, which I picked up from the library on Saturday and had largely finished by Sunday night.

Muller continues to be an excellent mystery writer. This one was a no-body murder case where she got to have a lot of fun exploring whether everyone even was correct about who had been murdered. Some of McCone's early bad-girl stylings are gone, since she actually keeps in touch with the authorities and ask for permission to stay on the case in this work. It seems like Muller & hubby had their individual sleuths triangulating, with McCone getting more law-abiding and Nameless less law-abiding, as time went on.

In any case, another good read. Muller is probably at the top of the list of the older series I'm reading right now--the perfect author if I'm down, sick, or need something quiet and simple to read.
shannon_a: (Default)
Reading them back to back, I'm impressed by how much a better writer than her husband Marcia Muller is. In particular, I'm impressed by how much of a stronger impression of San Francisco she gives. This one has so much San Francisco color: Golden Gate Park (which I'd love to go bike around today), the Windmills there (which I remember from the Mother's Day before last), the San Francisco Flower Market (which I think I remember from Tales of the City, though perhaps I saw it somewhere else).

The mystery's also pretty good, and though I'm not convinced I had the clues to put it together myself, it fit in the end. And, much like her last book, I felt this one was full of characters, many of whom were living in unfortunate circumstances that you had to empathize with.

As you may have sussed out from recent posts, I'm taking a walk through all the mystery authors I'm currently reading. I've got the newest Spenser and Felix Castor books on hold too, though the library hasn't gotten their copies yet, and I'm also going to try out Robert Parker's YA book about Spenser, to see what I think
shannon_a: (Default)
It'd been a while since I read a Sharon McCone mystery, so I picked up Eye of the Storm, the next in the series, at the library last week. I liked it quite a bit.

One of the most interesting things is that Muller really moved out of the series' comfort zone. This one was pratically a Gothic horror. It was complete with haunted house (an old mansion on the delta), a disaster keeping everyone inside (the nominal storm), and an old family mystery. I thought it was quite well done.

I'm also struck by how much trying-to-figure-out-a-major-life-change is a trope in these mystery series. Spenser had it when Susan abandoned him for three books. The Nameless Detective had his existential angst when he thought he was dying of lung cancer. Jesse Stone had his in his latest book when he finally put the issue of his ex-wife to rest. Here, Sharon McCone has a lingering sense that her life is going wrong, and decides to put it right when she gets home.

(Oddly this trope is also usually accompanied by some time spent away from home.)

Anyway, good book.
shannon_a: (Default)
I started one other book while in Hawaii, There's Nothing to Be Afraid of, by Marcia Muller. It's the 7th Sharon McCone book, and it's enjoyable to be back with the series after a long time away.

Unlike Double, which was set in San Diego, this one is back in San Francisco--which is good, because that's one of the primary reasons I started reading this series. This one in particular is set in the Tenderloin, which generated a laugh-out-loud line for anyone familiar with the area: "Marin County presented a marked change from the Tenderloin."

I find it interesting that between Marcia Muller and then-future-husband Bill Pronzini, the two have covered many of the ethnic groups of San Francisco. Pronzini wrote about the Chinese in Dragonfire and about the Japanese in Quicksilver. Now Muller covers the new (in the early 1980s) influx of Vietnamese in There's Nothing to Be Afraid of.

Comparing Pronzini and Muller, I noted how much more emotional this book is than Pronzini's. It's really about people and how they interact and how that affects the main character. In comparison, Pronzini's Nameless is a lot more cut off.

Overall, it was another enjoyable book. Though the mystery seemed fair, it was buried in ramblings that I paid little attention, but I won't complain about that too much.
shannon_a: (Default)
I haven't read many books while in Hawaii. In fact, I just finished the book that I started on the airplane, Double, which is both the 14th Nameless Detective book and the 6th Sharon McCone book (or somewhere thereabouts, as I haven't bothered to look up the numbers).

No regrets on the lack of book reading, though, as I've got to spend lots of time in the ocean and spent lots of time with family.

Though I'd intended to hold out and read Double in its proper place, I actually skipped the penultimate Nameless Detective book, because my library lost its copy of it (a frequent problem at the Berkeley Public Library). Ah well, I'll have a copy of that missing book, Night Spectres or something similar, waiting for me via a LINK+ loan when I return.

Double is a very fun book because it's a crossover between Pronzini's Nameless Detective and Muller's Sharon McCone. There's actually a detective convention, and so a few other named folks make cameos as well. I recognized Kinsey Millhone, who is from the alphabet series of detective of books. In any case, the crossover is fun, and you wish these two would get together again (though I don't think they do, despite the fact that the two authors were a married couple who may well still be together today).

The use of the two detectives is quite well done. Chapters alternate between their two points of view, and they're constantly following different threads of the same case, neither one ever seeing the whole picture (although the reader does). I was impressed by how adroitly the authors carried this off.

I also enjoyed seeing the contrast between the two characters. I've noted before how Nameless follows the law much more closely than any other detective I've read about, and that was pointedly mentioned here, as both Sharon and Nameless reflect that she does things that he wouldn't.

The structure of the book itself felt much more like Proznini than Muller, as it involved multiple cases all tightly intertwined so that they looked like the same mystery. It's a structure that he's used in the past.

Overall, a fun book, and one that kept my attention enough to be worthy of being an airplane book. And now I finally get to read Sharon McCone books again, after I'd stopped for the last year or so, while I caught my Nameless Detective up to the same chronological point (1984) so that I could read this volume.
shannon_a: (Default)
I recently started in on a new mystery series, the Sharon McCone books by Marcia Muller. It's a female-detective series, very much in the same arena as Sue Grafton's novels, down to the part where she starts off working for an insurance agency. However, Muller's first book came out five years before Grafton's first, so she presumably was the influencer, not the other way around.

Donald handed me a couple of Muller's books some time ago, and it wasn't until I read one of them that I discovered they were set in San Francisco, which made me very happy as it's been something I've been looking for in a new mystery series. Add that on with good characters and well-done mystery, and this is a series I'll read through.

I started off with _Leave a Message for Willie_ (#5), since Donald told me there was no real continuity amidst the books. After I find McCone in the middle of a developing relationship I then backtracked to _Edwin of the Iron Shoes_ (#1).

I expect I'll read the next two sometime soonish, and this LJ is mainly a note to remind myself where I am in the series.

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