I’ve been reading Marcia Muller’s detective novels since the early 1980s. I’ve watched Sharon McCone move from a legal co-op in San Francisco to running her own business as a private investigator. She’s discovered her roots as a Native American; married the love of her life; Hy Ripinsky; learnt to fly a plane & ride a horse; gathered a group of loyal friends & family around her at work & at home; almost lost her life & found herself in more than a few tight corners.
In Looking for Yesterday, Sharon is hired by Caro Warrick. Caro was acquitted of murdering her best friend, Amelia Bettencourt, but public opinion wasn’t convinced by the verdict. She’s estranged from her family, lost her job & is living in a rundown apartment. She has agreed to co-operate with a journalist writing a book about the case but another journalist is also working on the story from the angle that Caro is guilty & Caro wants Sharon to reinvestigate the murder & find Amelia’s killer.
Sharon finds herself feeling ambivalent about Caro & her story. It seemed like a pretty straightforward case & Sharon isn’t sure Caro is being completely truthful with her. Amelia was having an affair with Caro’s boyfriend & Caro had confronted her about it. On the night of the murder, there was a witness who said they saw Caro at Amelia’s house but Caro has a gap in her memory & can’t remember where she went afterwards. Sharon isn’t sure that she believes Caro’s story but she agrees to take the case on the basis that Caro is absolutely truthful with her.
Sharon’s investigations lead her to Caro’s brother & sister. She discovers that they’re in regular contact with their sister although their parents have distanced themselves from all their children. This, as well as other new facts, contradict Caro’s story but before Sharon can confront her, she arrives home to find Caro on her own doorstep with life-threatening injuries. Caro dies & Sharon must not only investigate Amelia’s death but Caro’s as well.
Marcia Muller writes a fast-paced, exciting story. Her books are always a breathless read & I read this one in a day. As well as the investigation, Sharon is dealing with a move to new business premises & Hy’s desire to merge their two investigation businesses. Sharon has always had a nostalgic yearning for the old days of San Francisco in the 70s when she & her friends set up the All-Souls Legal Co-op & social justice has always been a strong impetus to her investigations. Her uneasiness about Hy’s merger proposal reflects her desire for independence. Running her own show is important to her but she also realises that she & Hy would see more of each other if they worked together. I love the details of Sharon’s life & meeting up with the operatives at the agency as much as the details of the current investigation.
Marcia Muller is often called the creator of the modern female PI novel & she’s won the Grand Master Award of the Mystery Writers of America, along with many other awards over the past 30 years. I hope she keeps writing about Sharon so I can enjoy a visit every year or so for a long time to come.