RogerBW's Blog

Wolf in the Shadows, Marcia Muller 04 January 2019

1993 mystery, thirteenth in Muller's series about Sharon McCone, private investigator in San Francisco.

At the end of the previous book, Sharon's lover Hy Ripinsky had disappeared; now it's time to look into that. Meanwhile All Souls Legal Cooperative has grown and got more formal, and the partners want to push Sharon into a desk job.

That B plot is under-served, really: it's an excuse for some good conversations with the long-term characters of the series, but it feels like an excuse, an artificial setup that the people who know Sharon wouldn't have tried to get her to agree to in the first place. I suspect Muller may have felt the same way, as its eventual resolution is given only in summarised report.

The investigation of Hy's disappearance is the main business, and it soon comes to involve a dubious security firm, a kidnapping, and illegal crossings of the border from Mexico. There are bad people here, but this isn't one of those machine-smoothed plots orchestrated by one villainous mastermind: rather, it's an example of how different people's greed can interlock and cause worse situations than any of them could have managed alone.

There's a flash-forward at the start of the book meant to create a false sense of jeopardy; the text is repeated in its proper sequence about half-way through, so I recommend skipping it the first time. The US/Mexico border situation has clearly been researched in detail, and for my taste a bit too much of that research was visible on the page, but mostly the investigation keeps moving, and the details form a background to the story rather than being major drivers for it; it's a plot that could be transplanted to a different setting relatively easily.

But by this stage in the series I'm coming back because I like the people, and Sharon uses both the investigation and the work pressures to voice some thoughts about how she wants her life to progress from here on. That might not mean much if one started the series here, but I've been following since the first one from 1977 (which I read five years ago), and I feel that Sharon has grown and changed realistically in that time.

Followed by Till the Butchers Cut Him Down.

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Previous in series: Pennies on a Dead Woman's Eyes | Series: Sharon McCone | Next in series: Till the Butchers Cut Him Down

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