RogerBW's Blog

The Shape of Dread, Marcia Muller 05 June 2017

1990 mystery; ninth in Muller's series about Sharon McCone, private investigator in San Francisco. Tracy Kostakos, rising comedian, disappeared two years ago; Bobby Foster confessed to kidnapping and killing her. But there's no body, he's recanted the confession, and All Souls Legal Cooperative is handling his appeal.

There's a long and twisty road to the truth, with various people having first concealed and then lied about what happened for a variety of reasons. Most of them are pretty stupid and/or self-absorbed (and Sharon herself starts to get to a place where she finds she doesn't really care about finishing off the investigation once her client's off the hook), but everything that's happened makes sense in terms of the personalities involved (apart, perhaps, from a major clue missed by the police during the initial investigation). It rapidly becomes clear to the reader, if not to Sharon, at least roughly who must be responsible, even before it's clear just what they're responsible for.

Muller manages to keep a reasonable balance between the mystery and Sharon's ongoing personal story: she's feeling low after having dumped her latest boyfriend, the boss at the cooperative is at outs with his wife, and Sharon's assistant is trying to learn on the job while sorting out a troubled personal life. The pacing of the ending is oddly disjointed, with an extended coda after the final action sequence, and a romance subplot feels wedged-in as well as unprofessional.

But Sharon's is still an interesting voice, she's a reasonably competent investigator and mostly a smart person, the writing continues to be effective description with occasional lyrical touches, and I found myself more involved than in the last book.

The title doesn't appear to have any particular significance to the story. Followed by Trophies and Dead Things.

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Previous in series: There's Something In a Sunday | Series: Sharon McCone | Next in series: Trophies and Dead Things

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