Marcia Muller’s 35th Sharon McCone novel delves into the world of serial killers, sending the fan-favorite PI chasing a crazed murderer around the Bay Area.
Chelle Curley, a twenty-three-year-old woman living in San Fransisco, is missing. Her parents, Trish and Jim, return from their much-needed vacation to Costa Rica and are alarmed when their daughter doesn’t return their calls. At first, they chalked it up to normal behavior from Chelle, who has already made a nice living flipping real estate, knowing that she tends to go off the grid for long stretches of time when knee-deep in a new project. But this is different. Worried, they call up their former neighbor, Private Investigator Sharon McCone, for help.
To kick things off, McCone heads to Chelle’s latest building looking for answers. Known as the Breakers, a massive space that Chelle had been working to turn into a facility for wounded and disabled veterans, is currently a run-down, makeshift apartment building. There, residents confirm that the young woman hasn’t been around, and nobody seems to know where she is. Though it currently stands in a less-than-desirable condition, the Breakers is otherwise fairly quiet and mostly empty.
Muller throws her first curveball when McCone finds a hidden space and, upon searching the mysterious room, makes a shocking discovery. The secret room is filled with disturbing pictures and newspaper clippings of serial killers, featuring everyone from Jack the Ripper and the Zodiac Killer to Charles Manson and Scott Peterson. Tracing the roots of the collage of killers back to an early tenant who dabbled in crime writing, it’s still unclear what the revelation means for Chelle’s whereabouts. Then comes the next twist: one of the tenants, Zack Kaplan, is brutally murdered, stabbed to death by a new serial killer who’s tormented the Bay Area. Upon further inspection, McCone wonders if one of the murderers detailed in the secret space, known as the Carver, is behind Kaplan’s death.
There’s a young woman missing and a killer on the loose. . . and, as always, it’s up to Sharon McCone to save the day.
Early on, Muller’s pacing is excellent and the suspense is heart-pounding. McCone’s discovery of the secret “room of horror” reads a lot like Meg Gardiner’s UNSUB series, and gives the plot plenty of exciting directions to run in. After that, however, things peter out. Strangely, the story moves somewhat away from Chelle’s disappearance and even the chase to catch the killer, focusing pretty heavily on the series regulars. Longtime fans will no doubt appreciate getting to catch up with all the regular cast of characters, but newcomers will almost certainly be confused by the lack of attention to the plot at hand, which is solid, but not quite as impactful as it teases early in the book.
Author: Marcia Muller
Pages: 272 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Release Date: August 14, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 6.0/10
Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.