Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
A Wild And Lonely Place - A Sharon Mccone Mystery, Book Club Edition Hardcover – 1995
Customers who bought this item also bought
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Browse award-winning titles. See more
Top Customer Reviews
McCone is clandestinely helping her friend, Adah Joslyn, who is a police officer assigned to the Diplo-bomber Task Force. The Diplo-bomber has been targeting embassies throughout the US. The latest attempt is to a consulate in San Francisco for the country of Azad--a small Arab emirate. RKI, is in charge of the security at the Azad consulate and they hire McCone to assist. It turns out that the consulate has been receiving bomb threats all along, but has refused to report these to the police. As McCone begins investigating, she discovers many other strange things as well. Consul general Malika Hamid is an overbearing woman who runs a very tight ship. She also seems to be hiding many secrets. Her son disappeared several years ago and his American wife appears to be held against her will in the consulate, along with her 9 year old daughter, Habiba.
McCone believes that the secret to finding the Diplo-bomber lies in the Azad consulate. She also fears for the life of Habiba and her mother. But this is where the story loses credibility. McCone ends up in the Caribbean, trying to get to the bottom of this case while her assistants back home are doing research to find the identify of the bomber. The trip back to California takes up the last third of the book but she gives away part of the ending in the prologue.
Muller seems to take on an "issue" in each of her later books and in A Wild and Lonely Place, that issue is the diplomatic immunity used in America by foreign embassy staff to get away with crimes. There is a lot to like in this book, but I just felt it could have been a little better.
It was a bumpy ride. The McCone books were Muller's best. But they fell into roughly three phases: (1) small-potatoes, penny-ante local mysteries involving comfortable, small-time neighborhood stories, motivations, and marginal types; (2) convoluted, pathos-laden mysteries with many disjointed parts and often implausible, train-wreck, let-down endings; and (3) haphazard chase, action/adventure, travelogue yarns short on mystery plots and familiar faces and places. The later books all feature some social-issue undercurrent to the story.
Muller's lean, thin early books belong to the first group. They became increasingly threadbare with Leave a Message for Willie (two unrelated killings, one senseless and both impromptu, involving "Torah scrolls" and a military camp) and There's Nothing To Be Afraid of (a deranged, Yeats-spouting derelict terrorizing a Vietnamese-owned flophouse).
Along the way, Muller broke out of this mold with an interesting plot, vivid descriptions, and fast pace in the entertaining Games To Keep the Dark Away. She held the plot trajectory on a steady arc throughout the book, instead of, as so often happens in promising mysteries (like Grafton's J Is for Judgment), collapsing after a good premise and setup.
Another high point came with The Shape of Dread. The book was long and complicated but coherent and tied-together, despite some cliche elements and questionable plot points. It was an affecting story, of shifting puzzles, interesting and genuine characters, and believable details, that felt alive and real and kept the reader guessing.
Although it was good that Muller apparently realized the need to develop bigger plots and go places, her writing bogged down in increasingly contrived, turgid, bulky tomes. These were typified by Pennies on a Dead Woman's Eyes (one of her most interesting, involving mystery premises -- about a 35-year-old murder of a promiscuous society girl on a think tank estate -- that self-destructed into a tangled mess) and Till the Butchers Cut Him Down (a melodramatic, far-fetched tangle of events, personal hatreds, and vengeances tracing back to a business "turnaround" that killed a Pennsylvania steel mill).
Still, I soldiered on, getting a copy of A Wild and Lonely Place from Amazon. Unfortunately, it landed in the disappointing third heap, along with Where Echoes Live (demented prospector, environmental activists, multinational conglomerate, abandoned gold mine, vandalism) and Wolf in the Shadows (Ripinsky missing, biotech firm executive kidnapped, illegal immigration, McCone storms Baja mansion). Never have I had more trouble finishing a Muller book. It droned on for 386 excruciating pages that felt ten times as long. Unable to take more than a few pages at a time, and with the mental block to opening the book growing bigger with each sitting, it took me months to get through it.
The premise of the "Diplobomber" blowing up embassies, targeting an Arab consulate in San Francisco, and being hunted by an FBI/ ATF/ USPS/ SFPD task force and the RKI security firm, was simply too overblown and veered too much to the other extreme from Muller's early, small-scale books. It did not lend itself to a good, intricate, personal detective story or characterizations. Nor did it leave room for McCone to make enough of a credible, distinctive contribution. Although Muller was more convincing than I had expected in injecting McCone into the world of high-level task forces, high-profile terrorism, and a hot-shot worldwide security firm, the book still left something to be desired in plausibility (including her interactions with RKI). The story, characters, and theme (about diplomatic immunity) were completely unaffecting, with nothing and no one to care much about (despite the last-minute revelation of a cliché personal motive). There was barely a mention of the familiar All Souls crowd and local color (the Remedy Lounge, group house, etc.).
The novel was action/adventure fare to the exclusion of the early books' sense of character and place and of almost any detective work (among other tidbits, here the reader had to settle for McCone belatedly prompting her associate to do some quick and dirty internet research that, like magic, turned up a pattern to the bombings, which, of course, had eluded all of the law enforcement professionals on the case).
First, as if the bomber plot were not problem enough, Muller hijacked it with an endless, tedious digression. Spurred by a poorly explained, gratuitous killing, with a leg-up from one or other marginal character, and sparing no details, McCone made a one-woman commando raid on a Caribbean island to retrieve the abducted granddaughter of the consul general and led her on a cross-countries chase. This included an embarrassing scene where McCone finagled access to the compound where the girl was being held and, with the hardened abductors standing right there, engaged in an obvious word game with the girl that instructed her to sneak out to the beach. It also included a contrived, even if well-described, scene where McCone piloted a plane with a failing engine, with boyfriend Hy Ripinsky conveniently feverish and indisposed.
Then, back in San Francisco, in the wake of a new bombing, McCone was hurriedly, aggrandizingly, and implausibly thrust into a computer-chat-room-arranged hostage exchange. At risk was an SFPD pal who had conveniently stumbled onto key evidence. This episode, with McCone again going solo, ended in shouting, shooting, and a body being incinerated and blown off a boat deck by a flare gun (why, when safely back in her car earlier, could McCone not have simply re-attached the body mike after pulling the wire loose in the phone booth to show the killer, making it unnecessary to go it all alone?).
I would be even angrier at how much of an effort reading this book took for so little payoff if it were not for some small compensations. Muller is a good descriptive writer. She tied up the story, such as it was, fairly neatly at the end. McCone was familiar, likable, and admirable (determined, focused on the task at hand, perceptive but not overly sentimental, clearheaded, levelheaded, with a quiet strength and a convincing competence). The story maintained a basic, if sometimes strained, credibility. And it obviously was intended to be more of a demonstration of McCone's "growth," over the most recent books, into a "living on the edge of danger" action hero, closer to Ripinsky, than it was the mystery/detective story, with careful tending to characters, setting, and investigation, that I wanted. Frankly, after this book, I am not at all sure how much longer I want to go along for the ride.