Sunday, January 09, 2011

Marcia Muller, COMING BACK: A Sharon McCone Mystery

I like especially the dedication to this latest by Marcia Muller, which was released in October: "For all those who came back, And those who waited for them." Surely it's a metaphor for a lot of areas of life beyond the suspense thriller  COMING BACK.

But for investigator Sharon McCone -- at a quick count on Muller's website, this is her 29th appearance -- coming back is about more than just showing up for work again. In the preceding volume, Locked In, a gunshot wound to the brain imprisoned McCone, without speech, in her own body, unable to control even the simplest movement. It's called Locked In Syndrome, a terrifying consequence of an unbearable attack to the brain and nervous system. And McCone's husband and partner Hy Ripinsky had to round up the team's colleagues to solve the case, without knowing whether his wife would, indeed, return to him in any meaningful way.

At the opening of COMING BACK, the couple is still in trouble. McCone's ability to speak and move is almost back to normal, although her stamina and confidence are far from healed. The same applied to the marriage, as well as to the investigating firm. Not only does McCone have reason to doubt her capacity -- her employees, in turn overprotective and despairing, aren't treating her like a teammate. Without the links that make this team function, it's vulnerable. More specifically, Sharon is vulnerable -- and through her, so is Hy.

The suspense level is intense, almost unbearable, by the time the first few chapters have sped by. Muller's decision to break the book into multiple character viewpoints, switching every few pages, adds to the rough experience -- this is a book that demands reading rapidly, because the risks and damages pile up, not just to Sharon and Hy, but all around them.

Muller's expertise is well-honed, and for pure suspense, this mystery will have readers -- dare I say it? -- coming back, and pounding on the door.

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