The Night Searchers: A Sharon McCone Mystery
When you pick up a Sharon McCone mystery, you know you’re in for a page-turning, hard-boiled female detective tale.
Sharon always tracks down and snares the bad guys, ever since 1977 when she opened her funky storefront co-op detective agency on Pier 24 ½ in San Francisco’s Embarcadero. She now shares luxurious office space with her husband, Hy Ripinsky, owner of a prominent international security consulting firm. She sticks to local investigations, while Hy travels all over the world resolving hostage situations, jewel heists and terrorist attacks. Their jobs require that they practice strict rules of confidentiality, even between themselves.
"Muller’s previous Sharon McCone mystery, LOOKING FOR YESTERDAY, read almost like a swan song, so I was delighted to see this new installment that ends (this is not a spoiler) with Sharon and Hy becoming business partners."
Sharon is hired by a married couple who want her to investigate strange activities and screams in a vacant lot near their lovely home. Hy has left for parts unknown to resolve a “situation,” not unusual in his line of business. Since he is out of town, Sharon immediately embarks on a midnight stakeout on the lookout for suspicious activity when she senses someone behind her. She whirls, gun in hand, and discovers it is her husband. His “out of town” ruse is typical for the clandestine operations that often take him to dangerous foreign countries. They discover that they are both on cases that seem to be connected to Hy’s kidnapping assignment and Sharon’s nuisance call. A friend of Hy’s former partner has been kidnapped and held for ransom, and they discover that Sharon’s clients appear to have connections to the kidnap victim.
A seemingly harmless cloak-and-dagger scavenger hunt game called The Night Searchers has been meeting in the vacant lot reported by Sharon’s clients. Meanwhile, the threats against the kidnap victim escalate. Sharon and Hy agree to work together, just this once, to connect the dots and resolve both cases. Sharon and one of her investigators go undercover to join the game, which seems entertaining until the leader of The Night Searchers is murdered.
The face of San Francisco has altered dramatically over the more than three decades covered in Marcia Muller’s books. Muller reflects on those changes as fires, urban renewal and a deadly earthquake alter the landscape. Cell phones and computers replace phone booths and index cards. The old piers are bulldozed to make way for mass transit and additional freeways. Sharon’s old office falls to the wrecking ball, and her beloved home is burned by an arsonist. After several tumultuous romances, she meets and marries the dashing Hy Ripinsky. Her friendships with employees, both former and present --- many of them relatives of her quirky extended family --- play supporting roles in Muller’s more than 30 bestselling novels.
Muller’s previous Sharon McCone mystery, LOOKING FOR YESTERDAY, read almost like a swan song, so I was delighted to see this new installment that ends (this is not a spoiler) with Sharon and Hy becoming business partners. Does this mean even more intrigue? Modern-day perils face us as world events alter entire nations, not just romantic old landmarks like San Francisco. Muller has written three successful novels with her husband, mystery writer Bill Pronzini. Did she decide that if she could co-write books with a real-life spouse, then her feisty detective character could learn to work with her fictional globetrotting husband? I eagerly look forward to the answer to that question.
Reviewed by Roz Shea on July 3, 2014