THE EVER-RUNNING MAN by Marcia Muller (Warner), 312 pages, $31.99 cloth. Rating: NNN
The trouble with being the 25th book in a series is all the baggage.
In The Ever-Running Man, Marcia Muller's latest Sharon McCone mystery, it feels like half the book is taken up with catch-up.
There's McCone's complicated family set-up, her eclectic collection of employees and her husband, Hy's, shady past, among other things that need explaining.
Still, it's an explosive story, and the ballsy McCone, as always, comes out in good fighting form.
Hired by Hy's security firm to catch the person who's been setting off bombs at the company's international offices, the private investigator finds herself in the scary position of having to dig up Hy's previous life, possibly implicating him in the firm's insalubrious dealings in Southeast Asia. It's a powder keg that threatens to rip apart their marriage.
When McCone narrowly escapes becoming the ever-running man's next victim at the firm's San Francisco office, she begins tracking the shadowy figure glimpsed running away from the explosion.
In short order, the violence heats up, one of the key players vanishes and events take on a decidedly personal tone.
There's no shortage of action or scenery as the intrepid McCone pilots their Cessna along the California coast, finally taking refuge at Touchstone, she and Hy's home on a desolate stretch of ocean cliff. The tension is in their tightwire relationship as much as the plot.
But anyone who's read the previous books can guess the outcome as far as Hy is concerned.
And maybe that's what spoils a good series when it goes on too long: we get to know the characters so well that all the mystery is gone.