When Sharon McCone started the All Souls Detective Agency in the
Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, its purpose was
altruistic. Her team of family and friends set a goal to help
people who fell through the cracks of the criminal justice system.
They tracked down the bad guys the old-fashioned, gumshoe way: door
knocking, rummaging through public records, mind- and butt-numbing
stakeouts in unsavory places. Her clients tended to fly below the
radar of the media and often the police.
Over the years Sharon’s reputation grew until she
attracted a clientele who actually paid their bills. Her success
coincided with the gentrification of San Francisco’s
waterfront until she now headed a large, high-tech agency out of a
classy Pier office condominium. Listening devices, tracking sensors
and a staff of computer geniuses who could hack into private
systems were at her beck and call. They had hung up their gumshoes
for night vision glasses and laptop computers connected via
satellite. Her recent marriage to Hy Ripinsky, a former CIA
operative with a worldwide clientele of his own, was partially
responsible for the expansion. Business was booming, but did the
personal risks outweigh the thrill of success?
Their most recent breaking news, TV bulletin, media event
capture of The Burning Man left her burned out. The terrorist
bomber had killed one of her employees, destroyed her home and
office, and she almost lost her own life. The incident also nearly
ended her marriage.
Depressed and suffering from nightmares, Sharon retreats to the
peace and isolation of her ranch in the High Sierras, where she can
come to terms with her future. She finds that the ranch caretakers,
Ramon Perez and his wife, are facing a family crisis. Their
drug-addicted niece, Hayley, disappears, then is found murdered.
Hayley’s promising younger sister also vanishes, and their
mother commits suicide. Sharon offers to help find Amy and
immediately is pulled into a dangerous situation that is much more
complex than it seems.
This time, she doesn’t need her high-tech employees to
help Ramon and his family. When two more local people die
mysteriously, Sharon calls upon family members from her American
Indian roots, and through the “moccasin highway” she
finds the connection between these lost souls and the wealthy
property owners near her ranch. The trail leads from Las Vegas to
the vast reaches of the Toiyabe National Forest as Sharon finds
herself right back in harm’s way.
Award-winning author Marcia Muller’s tightly plotted
mysteries continue to please her fans. BURN OUT shows us a favorite
heroine uncharacteristically out of control at a stage in life
nearly all of us reach at some point. She is able to return to her
roots of helping people who would otherwise fall through those same
cracks, whose lost lives might go unnoticed except by those closest
to them. We might not have the resources to bounce back through
such an adventurous re-entry into reality, but it certainly makes
for a great escape for mystery lovers everywhere.
Reviewed by Roz Shea on December 23, 2010