Marcia Muller’s writing instructor told her she didn’t have the goods to become a successful author, but in the early 1970s Muller tried her hand at mystery novels. The result, in 1977, was her first best-selling Sharon McCone mystery, Edwin of the Iron Shoes. Over the next 30 years, the award-winning author has penned 25 additional novels featuring P.I. McCone, each one an intriguing addition to the series.

McCone has come a long way, baby, since her start as a staff investigator with All Souls Legal Cooperative; now she’s the head of a San Francisco investigative agency. In Looking for Yesterday, McCone meets with Caro Warrick, a woman who’s been acquitted of killing her best friend, but who wants an in-depth investigation into the murder to uncover the real killer—thus truly exonerating herself in the public eye. The case has barely gotten started, however, when Warrick is murdered on McCone’s very doorstep.

The P.I. and her staff must pick up the pieces where there’s little to go on besides newspaper accounts of the trial. McCone collects a string of unconnected facts, searching for anyone with ties to Warrick: a sheep-grazing hermit; an old lover or two; some illegal arms smugglers; a reporter for a radical right-wing paper who’d trashed the victim during her trial; a string of dysfunctional family members . . . not to mention a body stuffed in a drainage pipe. The action ratchets up a notch when McCone finds herself in danger, crouched alone in a sabotaged elevator and, later, caught in a savage, devastating fire. Why are the stakes so high?

The story is laced with the interactions between McCone and her well-traveled husband, a high-flying international investigator, as well as her family and network of friends. Their lives are just a little too polished and prosperous, perhaps . . . it seemed a bit more real in McCone’s earlier days, without all the private jets, upscale (and numerous) homes, nifty outfits and easy money. But there’s a considerable upside as well. It’s a joy to read prose that slides like water over smooth stones, with nary a misstep or misplaced comma. Looking For Yesterday is an appealing read from a true professional.

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