RogerBW's Blog

Both Ends of the Night, Marcia Muller 26 May 2021

1997 mystery, seventeenth in Muller's series about Sharon McCone, private investigator in San Francisco. McCone's former flying instructor asks her to look into her disappeared boyfriend… then dies in a way that's surely not coincidental. And letting a client's death go unavenged isn't in the Private Eye Code.

This is a pretty mixed book. Muller builds up a big mystery about the missing boyfriend: why doesn't he seem to have a past? Unfortunately every clue points in the same direction, and the most obvious answer (ur jnf va jvgarff cebgrpgvba naq uvf cnfg unf pbzr onpx gb unhag uvz) turns out to be the right one, which is always a bit disappointing.

But more interesting is how McCone gets there, the gritty business of investigation; that's been a strong point of these books for a while, and I continue to appreciate this basically unglamorous but effective look at how the job is done (even if computers, obviously not being Muller's area of enthusiasm, are used largely to produce answers by magic when all else has failed).

At the same time there's a decent amount of practical business about flying (not much in the way of actual flying scenes, but plenty on how the life of a small airfield works); I like Muller's model of inhaling lots of information on a particular subject and then writing a book set in and around it, and it works well again here. (I just wish the crimes that are laid into the specialised subjects were a bit more innovative.)

Once the big question was resolved, though, things dropped off for me; the climactic scenes should have been filled with tension, but felt as though all the important stuff had already happened off-stage and we missed it. In particular, the final resolution is simply handed to McCone because she was in the right place at the right time.

Still, the regular characters continue to acquire depth, the partnership between Sharon and Hy mostly feels plausible as they come to terms with trying to be good people even though they're very good at, and enjoy, violence, and the whole thing is generally fun.

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

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