City of Whispers, by Marcia Muller (2011)

Genre: Mystery
Interest level: Adult
City of WhispersIf you haven’t discovered the Sharon McCone series by Marcia Muller yet, this is probably not the one to start with. This is the 28th in the series by the author who first set the standard for the modern, hard-boiled female detective, a standard followed by Sara Paretsky, Sue Grafton and others. In this novel, Muller again explores Sharon’s family relationships as she seeks to find her missing half-brother who sends her a plea for help from an Internet cafe in San Francisco, a city he’s never been to before. Sharon lives in the city by the bay, and Muller’s love for the city comes through as she intertwines her plot with descriptions of its streets, neighbourhoods, buildings, history, and conflicts new and old. Her writing as always is taut and evocative: “Familiar places are transformed by darkness.” Creepy. I’ve been reading Muller’s books for more than 20 years, and look forward to every single one. This isn’t one of her best, in my opinion – she surprised me with some good plot twists but not the bad guys; their motivation seemed weak, and Sharon’s quick assumption her brother was in trouble seemed forced. For those of us who’ve been fans of Muller through the years, it’s still a joy, better than most. But if you are new to her work, start with something much earlier, and enjoy the process of watching this private detective struggle, accept, cling, walk away and grow over the years. By the way, Muller’s husband is Bill Pronzini, the author of the Nameless Detective series, another superb contribution to the genre, featuring great plots and character development.
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