Customer Reviews: Looking for Yesterday (Sharon Mccone Mysteries)
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VINE VOICEon October 25, 2012
This is the 30th Sharon McCone novel, and I have the horrid suspicion that this is how Marcia Muller thought of it: gotta go work on #30; #30 is going OK; just got the jacket art for #30 . . . .

It's formulaic, something Muller has never been.

In my 5-star review of COMING BACK I say that I've grown up and grown old with the daughters of Sisters in Crime, following Muller and McCone since 1977, when I was mid-20s. So I see Sharon as a contemporary, and maybe that's the problem. I should remind myself of that great tag-line from The Godfather: It's not personal; it's business.

Writing is a business, and I realize that. But the author and press shouldn't rub the reader's nose in it. My only quibble about COMING BACK was the excessive number of blank pages -- nearly 20% of the 292 pages are empty. This is a cheat for the reader, who buys a slim book only to discover it's an anorexic book. And, while this is less obvious on Kindle, the book ends just as quickly.

In CITY OF WHISPERS, the first Muller book that's failed to impress me, the white space disappeared. Cool! But so did much of the character development and the logic of the historical plot lines.

Here we have, almost, the worst of both worlds. There are 15 chapters, each prefaced with front-and-back blank pages, the right-hand (recto) page having the day and date on it. But that information could just as easily appear on the first page of the chapter, along with the time stamp. Could better appear. Furthermore, six chapters end on a recto page, followed by a blank verso, making for 3 empty pages between chapters. Amazon's publishing info aside, there are 293 pages between the first and last lines, and 36 of them are blank. So, fewer blanks than in COMING BACK, but still over 10%. It's wasteful, as well as misleading.

But, really folks, I'd give her all the white pages in the cosmos if Muller would play fair with Sharon McCone. Now in her 50s, Sharon is successful, loved, and still challenged by her work. Why, then, does Muller begin to make the danger personal, not professional? You can always tell when a TV series is going under, because all the plots begin to arise from the characters' personal lives, a paradigm that signals doom -- and lazy writing -- more clearly than the jumping of any number of sharks. The same is true for series novels, with the inexplicable exception of Alex Cross, who seems to have enough personal disaster to fill a library. Here, I worry, Sharon McCone is fading as a professional while becoming a professional victim. Personal disasters account for most of the plots in the last several novels. I won't do spoilers here, but much of the tension in the novel also arises from this very dangerous member of the order lamniformes.

So that's one formula, The Beloved Character in Peril [Again]. Other cardboard cut-outs casting shadows over the pristine pages are the Person-Who-Isn't-What-[s]He-Seems and, bizarrely, The Detective as Psychic. The latter is truly creepy, especially as Muller tries to make it seem like a long-standing practice of McCone's to sit in a space and pick up images and intuitions. No. And if she were suddenly so sensitive -- maybe, interestingly, from the head wound -- you'd think she would have noticed Person-Who-Isn't . . . . I did, and I am not a reader who tries to figure things out. As for the actual investigation, most of it is done by Mick online.

But, know what? I'd even give Muller the formulae if she'd just give us some more McCone. There's very little introspection here (although more than in the last two books, where the shifting point of view kept everyone's thoughts abbreviated.) And there's almost no conversation. That was always the best part! Here we get half a page with Rae, another half with Hy, a page with Ted, less with Derek, and a couple of pages for Mick's drama, although we are left hanging on that. The issue of age comes up, but isn't given much ink. The issue of change is related to age, obviously, and gets a bit more, but isn't developed either. The case in question doesn't speak much to either mini-theme, although there are whole sentences in these 257 pages where I hoped it was going to.

Interesting characters appear and disappear without a trace. The roses have disappeared, although the wine is still important, if not much discussed. Sadly, I got the feeling that everyone -- starting with Marcia Muller -- was going through the motions.

I hate this. Muller's series is a cultural landmark in crime novels. I'd rather see Sharon McCone dead than rendered superficial. In last year's review I loaned Muller a star against better days. Here I'm tempted to take it back, but -- since this is the first review -- I'll loan her another and leave it at 3.

Think of this less as a complaint than as a cri de coeur. For me it's still personal.
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on November 7, 2012
I would say that this book in the Sharon McCone series was definitely intended for long time fans and not an attempt to attract new readers. If you've never read a Sharon McCone story before, don't start with this one. If you don't want to go back to the beginning of the series, I'd recommend starting with "A Wild and Lonely Place." But I think most long time fans will find something to like about this book. Though not every character who has been introduced to the series in past books made an actual appearance, many of them are mentioned and we got updates about what they're doing now.

This book was more about Sharon's journey through life than it was about the mystery. Perhaps that's the reason for the title. Throughout the book, Sharon is thinking about past choices, realizing that she is no longer as physically or mentally strong as she was in her youth, and wondering what is going to be next for her. I've followed this series since both Sharon and I were much younger, so I understand that we are both getting to the age where we realize we cannot return to "yesterday," but we are still "Looking for Yesterday." There is a sense of wistfulness and restlessness for Sharon's character.

I was very glad that Marcia Muller has finally dropped her experiment with multiple viewpoints and that this story is told from Sharon's viewpoint all the way through.

I was disappointed that Hy was used more as a plot device to provide information to the reader, and that was awkward. Twice she asked Hy to tell her about things like gun control and money laundering, and it was just awkward.

It was a fairly quick read. The mystery itself was not very interesting. Though she technically had a client, there was not much interaction with the client. I'm still not sure I understand exactly how all the violence against Sharon actually took place. It seemed to be overkill by a villain that wasn't all that villainous. Still, I give the book 4 stars because of the way Marcia Muller is finally starting to deal with the fact that Sharon is no longer young.

I've followed her journey from the beginning. Though this didn't feel like a "finale," there was a sense that Ms. Muller may be looking towards an ending. It felt sort of like a penultimate volume, setting us up for an ending.

It leaves me wanting to know what happens next.
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VINE VOICEon December 1, 2012
The problem with aging girl detectives is that after awhile they begin to seem stupid unless they are allowed to grow and gain some wisdom with age. Since all the authors of these 'girl detectives' books are now older women, you'd think they would have accrued some wisdom themselves to pass on to their heroines.

That said, "Looking For Yesterday" is still a very good read, loaded with personality, interesting family stuff, interesting characters you can tell one from the other, and action aplenty. Although I don't know where Sharon McCone picked up her 'psychic vibe,' since she still isn't that convinced about the reality of God et. al, plus all that comes with it. Muller continues to bash her heroine as if trying to get rid of some sticky stuff on her writing hand. Is Muller getting tired of McCone? Perhaps if McCone were allowed to evolve, Muller might like her better.

I personally am tired of Sharon being stupid and unknowledgeable about police procedure and the likelihood of danger. She's been in this business quite a while and has learned enough through not only her own experience, but her operatives and Hy's experiences, to be able to sense danger, or at least prevent potential harm. It's unrealistic to have her all alone in an office and then she hears the elevator, but no one is there. Any detective worth his or her salt would immediately douse the lights, or pick up their gun, or at the very least take the stairs when leaving.

One of the biggest gaps of common sense and procedure is when she and Mick (and why she should call him for help is beyond me -- how is it that her two best operatives have had the flu for 12 days??? -- because Mick isn't quick on his feet or very responsible) go to a suspects house and find him dead. Then they discover a big cache of illegal guns. Both apparently leave their fingerprints all over everything -- McCone does this frequently, not having heard yet of the use of plastic gloves -- and what does she do? Though she's not supposed to be there, though she has trespassed and broken all kinds of laws, though both of them have hidden her car and his bike, though they think it is unlikely this guy's death is related to the case, she calls the police instead of leaving and phoning in an anonymous tip. After she and Mick are harassed at police headquarters, their lawyer picks them up and takes them home. What happens to car and bike? Left at the scene?

That's a big one, but there are plenty of smaller gaffs. Muller gives away the game when she has McCone visit a winery, enjoy the wine, but does not buy any. I'll just leave it at that.

My pet peeve about the McCone books was brought to life in this one again. Why must the staunch, brave, highly experienced, expert, dependable McCone inevitably end up being sappy, stupid, awkward and weak whenever a crises appears? One example, but there are others: At the church she is meeting an unknown someone. I can't believe she looks at Mick on this dark, foggy night with danger all around and a strange van parked in the street which she does not notice, but Mick does (huh?), and she says to him, "Give me ten minutes." She's now the Long Ranger? First, that's too long. Second, if she is going to one side of the church, why not have Mick tippytoe along the other side? And, of course, just as she sees the "dark figure" waiting for her she "slips" giving herself away. What?!

She is living right next to and sometimes in one of the most sophisticated high tech spy companies on the planet and when her house catches on fire she not only has no cell phone with her in her bedroom, but guess what? Her smoke detectors are "plugins" instead of on "batteries," and since the electricity is off, they didn't work. What?!

So she's naked, right? She gets her cats out the door and then decides she needs clothes. Where the heck were her clothes from last night? She throws on Hy's sweatshirt and out the door she goes, sans underpants, sans pants, sans shoes. And of course she has to get hit by a falling piece of her porch, not that she'd look, would she? And then lie weakly in the grass instead of moving safely away, so that a fireman has to come and CARRY her into the woods to protect her. Then her neighbors show up and cuddle her, give her coffee, and I have to wonder didn't she miss having any pants on all that time?

She goes to Ricky's house (the Country Music Star), and immediately she and Hy begin giving out Ricky's home phone number. To everyone. "Early this morning I'd asked Ted to call every current client and all other persons connected with my cases, and give them this number." What?! Ricky must love that! Plus she is only staying like a day! Has she not heard of temporary cell phones? RI must have a ton of them! What year is she living in? Or, better, what year is Marcia Muller living in? 1990?

What about her singed hair? She says she'll have to have it cut, but I don't see any evidence that she even washed it. Surely Ricky Savage could have a hairdresser at his mansion within the hour.

So here's the thing: I've read every single McCone book Muller has written. I've loved most of them. Maybe Muller is tired of McCone, but here's one sure thing to stop that: realize that if Sharon never seems to learn from her experiences, the reader stops trusting her, and by extension, also begins to mistrust the author. In the end you have to let Sharon grow and evolve, not just in technical things but in heart and soul things. Of course, first, the author must grow and evolve.
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on May 26, 2014
I do believe that Sharon is getting "old" and perhaps "pre-menopausal" because she is getting surly! I have read the Sharon McCone mysteries since the first one was published and have them all. I also have all the Sue Grafton alphabet mysteries and will follow Sharon and Kinsey until they "retire" from print. I must say this book is on the shallow end of the mystery genre. Lame and limited character development and I knew who the killer was in the early chapters. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the story and read it quite quickly to see how Marcia would bring it all together. Ended quite abruptly though. On the good side we didn't see Hy and Sharon debating the issue of getting married. Now it is a decision as to whether they should join forces and unite their businesses. I guess that will be resolved in the next book down the line. There are lots of story lines that are dangling without resolution. Sharon needs more team interaction with Mick, Ted, Rae, Hy and her parents and family. I like Sharon, she does have bold determination and independence. Instead of "Looking for Yesterday" I am looking for Sharon's next adventure into solving a crime.
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on October 22, 2013
This has long been my favorite series, but this is the second book in a row I haven't given five stars. That's never happened before.

While I was glad there wasn't too much Hy to hijack the story, I miss some of the old supporting characters. It seems Mick is the only one who gets much play lately. I'd like to see some of the supporting cast from the old days brought back. Or at least some of Sharon's other operatives.

I also feel like lately Ms. Muller is getting preachy. There was way too much about gun control and her obviously using the book to promote her own agenda. Not what I want to be reading.

I also was left a bit confused at the end -- the culprit's identity was pretty obvious and his reasons didn't really work for me. And Sharon just seemed to pull the whole thing out of thin air rather than by investigating and putting the clues together.

I really hope this series isn't headed downhill like so many others. I'd hate to see Sharon become mediocre.
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on March 9, 2013
I've enjoyed the Sharon McConn series since the beginning & have bought every book. That may soon end. I thought the prior book was okay, but hoped it was a one-off, and the series would soon return to good writing, interesting plots, & detailed characterizations. It has not. " Looking For Yesterday" seems as if the writer was using an on-line template entitled "Write a mystery book" & just had to fill on some basic information and voila - your very own mystery book.
The entire Hy/RI subplot is now ridiculous. Offices everywhere, private jets, flying around the world to high-profile cases seems like Harlequin Romance territory. The Beemer, the move to a swanky highrise, the alleged "emotions" felt in Caro's apt, all make Sharon so unrelatable, so 1%ish as to leave me not really caring about her or Hy. Sharon used to be real & I liked her. Now she seems to be a caricature.
As for this specific story, there is really nothing to explain why Caro or Amelia or Valerie or Dan or Caro's parents or anyone else for that matter, acts the way they do. There is little character development & the small amount that is there is convoluted, confusing, & disorienting. The plot is simply mundane & uninteresting.
Marcia - it's understandable that after so many books you may be tired of the character of Sharon McCone. If so, stop writing the books. But whatever you do, please don't continue to let them sink into mediocrity. I will miss the series if it ends, but I will miss it even more if it continues in the direction it seems to be going.
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on January 14, 2013
Even as good a writer as Marcia Muller has to have a miss once in awhile. This novel seems carelessly written and poorly edited. Clues to what's going on shown up mid-way and pretty much point to what's going on. The story clumps along until a few pages before the end, and McCone suddenly pops up with the solution with no real indication of how she got there...or why it took her so long to catch up with the rest of us. I know editing is a thing of the past, but didn't anyone notice that early on, Winter is described as being on the lam, but later in the book, there isn't anything to charge him with.

Has anyone else noticed that the print in Muller's books has gotten larger. Is that to make a low word count look like a real book?

No matter the flaws, I will keep reading the McCone series. I've been with it since the beginning and appreciate the decades of entertainment.
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on December 4, 2012
True Marcia Muller fans will need very few words from me on why to purchase this book. I recommend that new readers start with the first Sharon Mccone book and go from there, as I did so many years ago. Marcia Muller's latest mystery has all the things I like about her series: great writing, excellent characters and the wonderful atmosphere of the Bay area, which is where I was first introduced to her work by an old friend.
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on October 29, 2013
I haven't read a Sharon McCone mystery in awhile so it was very satisfying to be back on the streets of San Francisco with this determined and always likeable private investigator. Muller's easy writing style along with her very well developed main character and an intriguing mystery surrounding the innocence of a client in an unsolved murder, equals one good read. This might not be a series you'd want to hop into at this point as there is so much background that has been going on since its inception many years ago, but if you don't mind there being some questioning "holes" about McCone's private life, this story does stand on its own merit. There are, of course, a number of possible suspects as the investigation looks deeper into the murder at hand. And, as has been the case with several of the more recent books in the series, a few serious setbacks for Sharon, herself. What unfods here is not only a puzzling mystery to solve, but also a backdrop for more changes to come in this ever evolving P.I.'s personal storyline.
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on January 7, 2013
I've been reading this series for over 15 years and it's one of the very best. My only disappointment, which was so negligible it didn't factor into my star rating for the book overall, is that there's some destruction that goes on, a moving on for Sharon and Hy that I found painful. Good writing, so much that I'm invested in the characters? Yes! I can understand not wanting the character to get in a rut, but there are some changes that are too harsh.
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