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Book Author: Marcia Muller

LOCKED IN by Marcia Muller: Book Review

I’ve been a fan of Marcia Muller’s Sharon McCone series ever since I read Edwin of the Iron Shoes. That was back in 1982, and both Shar and I have aged (gracefully, I’d like to think) ever since.

In the latest series’ entry, Locked In, Shar is shot in her San Francisco office late one night. When she awakens several days later, she is told she’s a victim of locked-in syndrome, something that will be familiar to readers/viewers of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.  The author of that novel, Jean-Dominique Bauby, wrote his memoir while virtually a total prisoner of his body–victims of locked-in syndrome can neither talk nor move, but they are able to hear, see, and understand everything that’s said to them.  In Bauby’s case, the locked-in syndrome was caused by a massive stroke; in Locked In, the bullet to Shar’s brain had the same devastating effect.

Hy Ripinsky, Shar’s husband, and all her colleagues at the McCone Agency, are working to find the person who shot her.  There’s her nephew Mick, the computer whiz; Rae Kelleher, married to Mick’s country singer father and a private investigator; Julia Raphael, former prostitute turned P.I.; and several others.  Their only hope is that one of the agency’s still-to-be-solved cases is behind the attack, and so they are determined to find the culprit.

In fact, there are several unsolved cases at the McCone Agency that may have a bearing on the murder attempt.  There’s corruption in San Francisco’s city hall, a young street walker who turns up dead and is not identified, a missing man.  Are they all separate, or is there something tying them together that can shed light on what happened to Sharon McCone?

One of the best things about this series is following Shar’s life. In my March 9th About Marilyn blog, I wrote how important it is to me to know the back story about the lead in a series.  I didn’t mention Marcia Muller in that post, and I should have.  Of all the mystery writers I can think of, Muller has done the best job of creating not only a back story but a continuing story for her heroine.   Each book reveals a bit more.

Shar is one of six siblings, and each one has his/her own distinct history.  In the more than two dozen novels in this series, Shar and family have been through a lot–marriages, divorces, remarriages, suicide, the truth about Shar’s birth, and more.  It makes Shar real, someone the reader can identify with, even if the reader cannot quite put herself or himself in Shar’s many life-altering or life-threatening adventures.

Marcia Muller has been quoted numerous times saying that she’s tired of being referred to as the “founding mother of the hardboiled contemporary female private investigator”; that by now, given the number of excellent female private eyes, she’s more like the grandmother.  It’s true that there are now dozens of women following in the footsteps of Muller/McCone, but few who do it so well.