Sunday, May 8, 2011

Burn Out

It's amazing how much younger characters become over the run of a series.  When Marcia Muller introduced Sharon McCone, her detective was 28 and I was 8 and more than a decade from discovering her.  24 years later, we're about the same age, and I suspect that I will be older than she by the time Muller retires the character.  Some convenient amnesia comes with the Dorian Gray syndrome - McCone's Berkley days and the 20-odd years it took for her brother-in-law to go from a struggling country musician to a superstar have faded over the past several books - but Muller hasn't totally ignored the passage of time.  Once the lone investigator for a legal co-operative, McCone is now the head of a thriving investigative agency with a dozen operatives and little reason to leave her office.

This development (and the particularly nasty case solved in The Ever Running Man), led to the titular Burn Out.  Theoretically pondering her next career move (but in reality nearly paralyzed by depression), McCone has a chance encounter with a young Paiute woman who is murdered a few days later.   McCone investigates, mainly because the victim's uncle is the caretaker for her husband's ranch, and soon finds herself enmeshed in a web of family secrets and small-town intrigue - which somehow connect to a reclusive billionaire.  

Maybe I've become too good at solving mysteries, or maybe it's only a middling detective novel, but I solved this a bit too early for my taste.  Where Burn Out succeeds is as a psychological novel.  Muller slowly (and I think realistically) draws McCone from her depressive state to 'the old Sharon' as she teases apart the puzzle.  I enjoyed watching McCone wake up and begin to solve the day-to-day problems in both her personal and professional life.  It's a mystery novel for people who want more than justice for the dead in their mysteries.

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