Burn Out, by Marcia Muller (2008)

Genre: Mystery
Interest Level: Adult
Burn OutAnother Sharon McCone mystery by Marcia Muller, who also penned City of Whispers which I reviewed more than a year ago. This one is much stronger. Sharon owns a highly successful private investigation firm, with several operatives handling multiple cases from missing persons to identity theft. She has just come off a particularly troubling case and finds herself questioning her life’s work. Depression is taking a firm hold, and Sharon has hightailed it to her husband’s ranch in the Sierra Nevada desert country. Against her better judgment she finds herself looking for her ranch hand’s niece, Amy Perez, who is missing after an altercation with her boyfriend. Along with murder, Sharon uncovers long-held secrets and shameful pasts as she determines to find the truth about Amy and her mother Haley. Muller, like her husband Bill Pronzini, was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America, and with this novel she demonstrates why. A complicated mystery, deep and layered characters, sharp dialogue and terrific writing – it’s all there. Those new to McCone may find this a bit tricky to maneuvre as there are a lot of side stories and characters to keep track of (Mick, Rae, Hy, Ted and all the others occasionally appear), but in general it holds up well as an introduction to the series as Muller keeps the focus on McCone and her internal struggles. I still think you should start with book one though (this is #26). Like Pronzini’s Other Side of Silence, the local landscape is an important element in the story, but Muller opts against developing the setting as far as Pronzini does. It works – this is Sharon’s story, and the wild and unforgiving landscape serves as a contrast to the cocooning she desperately desires but can’t indulge in. There are several more in the series after this one – I seemed to have missed a couple around this time, and I’m glad I picked it up.
More discussion and reviews of this novel: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3768579-burn-out


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