RogerBW's Blog

While Other People Sleep, Marcia Muller 15 October 2022

1998 mystery, eighteenth in Muller's series about Sharon McCone, private investigator in San Francisco. This time there are two separate cases: Sharon's secretary Ted is suddenly being secretive and angry, and someone seems to be passing herself off as Sharon…

Yup, Muller continues with her model of doing a deep research dive on a particular subject and then producing a book about it; this time it's stalkers and identity theft. The A and B plots are unusually spaced; the two run in parallel at first, each of them driving home the idea that this sort of thing can't be solved by acting on one's own, but the found-family (in this case of McCone's investigation agency and allies) can help sort things out; then a little over half way through, the B plot is wrapped up by a group effort, and McCone goes off solo to deal with the A full time.

(Also there are various actual paying clients; they're mostly straightforward, but it's pleasing to see the routine work of the agency as well as the Big Case that makes up the meat of each book.)

Perhaps because so much of the research comes out on the page, I sometimes felt I was being lectured to; yes, maybe one individual stalker would do all these things that fake-Sharon does, but is it really likely? Does one really get someone who's highly detail-focused and able to plan things out over a process of months, but also subject to frequent wild mood swings over trivial events? I don't know. Perhaps. Seems like a thing about which someone who didn't know the subject would say "hang on, that's a bit odd isn't it", but nobody does.

I very much enjoyed the action when Sharon finally did get to go after her stalker, but perhaps the theme that by imitating Sharon the stalker had made her mental processes predictable to Sharon was harped on a little too often. And the climactic sequence… well, Sharon is unsatisfied with the way it came out, and so I suppose it's the author's intention that I am too.

After all, I can for once say without spoilers that the A plot is basically "a loony did it, for their own reasons which don't make sense to a sane person" – and that's a ferociously hard plot to make interesting. The narrative is very much in the victim's viewpoint here, and that helps, but someone who is unbalanced doesn't feel like a worthy opponent for Sharon to be testing herself against, no matter how much harm that person has done.

(Also a minor aviation hiccup: people talk about headings such as "three-one". In fairly extensive study of aviation voice procedures, I've always heard it as the full number of degrees, as "three-one-zero". I know Muller is a pilot and unlikely to be getting this wrong, but it was certainly jarring.)

There are some very fine moments here, but the overarching structure felt as if it couldn't quite support the action; I wonder whether the B plot was squeezed in to try to provide some structural bracing to the first half.

One could work out roughly who's who of the returning characters and why they do what they do, but I'd recommend not starting here; at the very least Wolf in the Shadows and The Broken Promise Land would give some of the emotional background.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog.

See also:
Wolf in the Shadows, Marcia Muller
The Broken Promise Land, Marcia Muller

Previous in series: Both Ends of the Night | Series: Sharon McCone

  1. Posted by Owen Smith at 07:10pm on 15 October 2022

    Clarity of numbers is important over the radio for aviation and related fields. Craig Breedlove had the fastest car accident in history at over 600 miles an hour because when the Black Rock control centre said side winds were gusting at something like "One Five Knots" he interpreted that as being 1.5 knots and went ahead with his run, and the wind turned the car on its side. If he'd been properly familiar with the aviation procedures the control centre were using he'd have known that 1.5 would have been "One Decimal Five". Andy Green driving Thrust SSC had no such problems being an RAF pilot at the time. I may have the exact numbers involved wrong, it's the type of misunderstanding that is relevant.

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Search
Archive
Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action advent of code aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio audio tech aviation base commerce battletech beer boardgaming book of the week bookmonth chain of command children chris chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup covid-19 crime cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi economics espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 essen 2018 essen 2019 essen 2022 existential risk falklands war fandom fanfic fantasy feminism film firefly first world war flash point flight simulation food garmin drive gazebo genesys geocaching geodata gin gkp gurps gurps 101 gus harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo 2019 hugo 2020 hugo 2022 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life javascript julian simpson julie enfield kickstarter kotlin learn to play leaving earth linux liquor lovecraftiana lua mecha men with beards mpd museum music mystery naval noir non-fiction one for the brow opera parody paul temple perl perl weekly challenge photography podcast politics postscript powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha python quantum rail raku ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs ruby rust science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance the weekly challenge thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel type 26 type 31 type 45 vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1