RogerBW's Blog

A Wild and Lonely Place, Marcia Muller 07 October 2019

1995 mystery, fifteenth in Muller's series about Sharon McCone, private investigator in San Francisco. McCone's trying to get the reward for tracking down the "Diplo-Bomber" who's been sending explosive packages to various embassies and consulates… but it quickly becomes personal.

This quickly becomes two cases: the bomber takes a back seat once McCone deals with the Azadi Consulate ("one of those oil-rich emirates" that's unusually progressive, with a female consul-general, but now with a fundamentalist leader at home), since there's personal drama that seems somewhat forced, and soon McCone is chasing off to a small Leeward Island to recover the kidnapped granddaughter of said consul-general… from the child's father. Once that's done and the girl's lodged somewhere safe, it's back to the bombing case, involving prickly negotiations with a task force, and once again a personal stake for Sharon.

The one part that really fell flat for me was the identity of the bomber. When McCone determined that she'd got it down to two possible people, I wanted to point out that there was a third who'd have been a vastly better candidate, both in terms of psychology considering the motivation for the attacks and in terms of making an interesting story. (And it would have been reasonable for McCone to overlook him.) But no, it wasn't to be. Instead, the actual killer must be a superb actor to pass for a normal person in the way they do, and this isn't at all foreshadowed.

People other than me may not care, but there are some excellent flying sequences. The tech stuff is pretty dated, as is usual when someone writes about something shiny and new that's still changing fast, but mostly it works for the era.

"I'll bet they're using the other services like Prodigy and CompuServe and America Online, as well as the Internet."

"The Internet—that's the monster one you need a road map to use?"

Mick smiled smugly. "Some people need a road map, but not this kid."

That's not McCone's or Muller's strong point, though, and the book's better when it deals with plain old-fashioned detective work. Possibly this goes a little too far in the spy thriller direction, but overall it manages to work, and I continue to enjoy Muller's writing style.

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Previous in series: The McCone Files | Series: Sharon McCone | Next in series: The Broken Promise Land

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