Thursday, June 21, 2007

Marcia Muller's 25th Sharon McCone Mystery Coming In July!
Since 1977, mystery author Marsha Muller has steadily produced novels detailing the life of her series character, professional investigator Sharon McCone. Her current novel, The Ever-Running Man, is the 25th in the long-lived series that began with the first novel Edwin of the Iron Shoes.

I started reading the McCone books in the late 1970s, which dates me, I suppose. But it also speaks of the loyalties of Muller’s readers. We tend to stick around.

In the early years, McCone worked for All Souls Legal Cooperative and handled small cases with large results. As evidenced in her latest offering, McCone is now capable of handling the jet-set crowd. During the last 30 years, our intrepid lady private eye has discovered more about herself and her family than most people ever get the chance to do. Of course, her family has had a lot more secrets and turmoil than most families do.

In her last novel, Vanishing Point Muller married her heroine off to Hy Ripinsky, a high-powered executive working with Renshaw and Kessell International, a security firm capable of providing protection for heads of state and probably small countries. That relationship is only one of things that come under fire during the current novel.

The book opens with a bang. Ripinsky visits McCone’s office with an offer to hire her to search for an elusive attacker that has plagued the security corporation for over two years. RKI has kept the incidents primarily out of the news rather than take a black eye about not being able to protect their own people. However, the “Ever-Running Man” – as they’ve taken to calling him because witnesses always described him as someone running from the scene of an explosion – has upped the ante by making even more blatant and destructive attempts on RKI holdings.

McCone is reluctant to take on the assignment. As she explains to her husband, an investigation like that is going to require some deep research into the backgrounds of all the corporate executives. Including her husband.

Ripinsky already admitted to having several skeletons in his personal closet. He’s been something of a bad boy, which is one of the reasons that McCone is interested in him. However, before her journey through this novel is finished, she has to ask herself if he’s told her all the truth.

Before McCone can even officially start the case, the building she’s in gets bombed. She escapes injury, but two people aren’t so lucky. The Ever-Running Man’s body count has gone up.

Over the years, in addition to heading up her own agency with several operatives, McCone has also gone high tech. Readers get to see a lot of that in action in this novel, and Muller delivers it in a way that is not dry and boring.

The secret does lie in the past, and that’s where Muller finds the motivation that has ultimately set the killer in motion. The problem with secrets is that once they start tumbling out of closets, you don’t get the chance to choose which ones you see and which ones you keep hidden. Before long, one of Ripinsky’s secrets has tumbled free and causes a rift in his relationship with McCone.

The novel is very well written and keeps the reader on his or her toes as the pages flip. A lot of information emerges quickly and causes consternation and confusion. Much of what McCone thought she knew about Ripinsky’s secretive partners comes to light and is even worse then she believed. One of them was involved in illegal arms shipments into Asia after the Vietnam War.

But, since this is a McCone novel, family has to figure into the mix along the way. This book has got family in spades. Hardly a scene goes by that some family member longtime readers have gotten to know over the last 30 years doesn’t put in appearance. And some of them are still dealing with their own problems, which helps McCone deal with her own situation with Ripinsky as well as better put it into perspective. (For the really diehard fans, she even mentions Wolf, the series character called the Nameless Detective by Bill Pronzini. Pronzini is Muller's real-life husband. See? It's all about family.)

I had a great time with this book. Part of it was because of the puzzle, which is played pretty fairly. I had most of the twists and turns figured out before McCone unveiled them for me. But the other part of the enjoyment was correctly attributable to McCone’s character and her family problems. This mystery felt like sitting down to the table with an old friend and listening to her troubles as well as her success in dealing with them.

If you’re an old fan of the series, you’re going to love The Ever-Running Man. I will offer a caveat to a newcomer reader: this book will go down much better if you read some of the earlier books in the series. You don’t have to, but I do recommend it. And if you love mysteries but haven’t read the Sharon McCone series, you should really give one a try.

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