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Coming Back Mass Market Paperback – Sep 27 2011
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"After all these years, Muller's series remains a gold standard for female detective stories."―Kirkus, starred review
"Top-notch mystery and more from one of the genre's Grand Masters."―Library Journal
From the Back Cover
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Ten recipes that make two meals from oneeasy dishes that do double duty by providing the makings for a tasty second meal --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
"Coming back was the hardest thing I've ever had to do." -- Sharon McCone
Marcia Muller is a fine writer first, and a wonderful mystery writer second. That's what makes her work so special. With Locked In, Ms. Muller began to explore how someone who is severely disabled can deal with life's challenges. When that someone is Sharon McCone, the ordinary challenges would overwhelm most healthy people. In Coming Back, Sharon McCone's recovery from her head injury continues . . . slowly.
Although physical and speech therapy are difficult, the emotional roller coaster can be much worse . . . and so it is with Sharon. With many narrators beautifully balanced, Coming Back gives you many perspectives on what's involved in such a recovery.
Marcia Muller hasn't lost her sense of humor. She has Sharon struggling to get around while she's still not allowed to drive. Imagine detecting via cable car.
In the middle of the personal challenges, a new friend mysteriously disappears. Sharon wants to be hot on the trail, but there's only so much she can do on her own . . . despite her frustrations. How well will she do?
I continually sit in wonder when considering how many characters Ms.Read more ›
Natural Law, Science, and the Social Construction of Reality
I love the character of Sharon McCone. I have read the whole series and I always eagerly await the next one.
Two reason I love detective novels is for character development and character interaction. Muller's novels have these characteristics in spades.
Unlike the lone wolf detective, whether male of female, these books work cooperation by all members of the agency. People have their specific jobs and work together. Sharon may be the boss, but she heavily relies on the teamwork of her co workers.
Sharon is still recovering from the gunshot wounds and is going to physiotherapy when one of her work out friends goes missing.
The plot gets somewhat convoluted and involves national security, messed up marriages and some red herrings. There is also a part where a co worker is kidnapped, which leads to a bit of serious suspense.
I don't want to give any of the plot away, but I will say that in lesser hands, this would not have been as good. Muller knows when to stop and when to maintain suspense.
The real interesting thing about this book is that each chapter is written from a different character's standpoint, not by the character but by the third person narrator. This technique, when used properly as it is here, creates a whole different level of suspense.
In short a great addition to the series.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Sara Paretsky, Sue Grafton, Marcia Muller, these three constitute the holy trinity of feminist mystery writers and are the founders of the venerable professional organization, Sisters in Crime. Their detectives were the first women to be tough, to carry guns and use them, to get shot and beaten up, to fight back, to wreck cars, to sleep with more than one man a decade. All readers and most writers of contemporary mystery fiction owe them a huge debt.
But Marcia Muller was first of the first. Her 1977 Edward of the Iron Shoes introduces Sharon McCone, anticipating the debuts of Kinsey Milhone and VI Warshawski by five years. And Muller's detective has developed into the most interesting and credible of the three protagonists.
While I love Vic Warshawski best, or did for many years, she hasn't aged well. She still lives hand-to-mouth, still takes stupid risks (no, not all risks are stupid, but most of Vic's are, willfully so); she still hurts the people she loves - both of them - and has failed to form any adult friendships, having instead surrogates whose shins she can kick: a mother and a dog-sharing grandpa. And Vic never thinks about things. Well, yes, she follows causes, sometimes of her own choosing, sometimes those of others, but she never thinks about those issues in the abstract or big-picture sorts of ways. She doesn't read, except for newspapers. And what passes for self-awareness is generally just "I'll-show-them" justification. All this was acceptable in the mid-80s when she was in her 30's. Thirty years on she's turned into the sort of old acquaintance you'd leave a coffee shop to avoid. (Although, to be fair, the recent Body Work is the best installment in over a decade.)
Kinsey Milhone is still trapped in the 1980's, literally. She also has a surrogate grandfather, Henry, and lives hand to mouth in a fixed-up garage. But she's still young, so there's some reason for it. (I've often wondered if Grafton regrets her decision to age the series in real time, but I don't really care enough to go look up an interview.) Less deliberately, Paretsky let Vic get stuck in her late 30's for about 20 years. By any reckoning of the series' chronology, she's now in her 60's, but still playing an impulsive thirty-something.
Sharon McCone grew up. She moved out of the closet under the stairs into a real office then into her own agency. She bought a house. She learned to fly. She fell in love, eventually, with a man nearly as interesting as she is. She learned that she's adopted and tracked down her birth parents. Her extended family includes real relatives and a wide variety of dear friends who aren't stand-ins for anything. And she provides as much help as she receives from them.
All three writers claim righteous feminist credentials, but Muller's McCone lives those values most consistently. The first-person narration always identifies women (as well as men) by their last names until they are well-known enough to first-name. Muller is even-handed with authority figures, sometimes male, sometimes female. McCone's gender-based conflicts generally arise from believable circumstances - not simple malice -- as does her surmounting of those problems.
When McCone possesses information that the police should have, she calls them, something Vic would rather cut off her right hand than do, ever.
And she thinks. No, she's not a reader, like Guido Brunetti or Harriet Vane, but she thinks complexly and logically about issues of family, immigration, suicide, land use, poverty, and - of course - justice. She also has a self-awareness that both Warshawski and Milhone lack. This is most evident in Both Ends of the Night, where she investigates the murder of the woman who taught her to fly, and While Other People Sleep, which is (appropriately) about identity theft. These two novels are sequential and, along with A Wild and Lonely Place and The Broken Promise Land, constitute a realistically developed coming-of-age for McCone, both in her own spirit and her dealings with others.
This is the 28th novel in the series - over three decades of plots and not a stinker in the lot. (OK, the Hawaii book is unlikely, yes it is, but people do behave oddly in the tropics and the Kaui tourist board must have tugged at Muller's heartstrings in some cosmic way to generate that gothic tale. But that's just one - ONE ! of 28! -- that's not excellent.) The continuity is virtually flawless. There are no massive contradictions and no convenient add-ons.
Having praised the series so lavishly, I can hardly speak ill of this book. But there is one aspect of the book I need to protest.
It's full of white space. In the 90's, when More Was More in mystery/thriller land, the likes of Patterson and Robert B Parker would turn out tomes that were as much as 30% blank paper: a chapter ends on partial verso (left) page; blank recto (page); blank verso page; chapter heading on recto page; blank verso page; next chapter. So what should be 2 partial pages, the second with a chapter heading at the top, has morphed into 6 pages.
It's wasteful, bad eco-business, and grievously misleading to the book-buying public. The total page count here is 292 -- Amazon says 304, but that's counting endpapers and paste-downs. And rising 20% of those pages are naked. Inkless. Blank.
Shame on the publisher and shame on Ms Muller for letting them get away with it.
OK: Coming Back picks up after McCone's near-fatal injury in Locked In, a terrific book in which Muller gives us the narrative from all characters in third-person, not just McCone in first. I'm glad to see that she continues that here, although I wish there were more McCone chapters in this slim volume. There's no rose-colored future for the investigator, just lots of realistic therapy and hard knocks. And there are bad days - very bad. The cat dies. Nor does Muller coddle her hero, as McCone's friends try to do. She drops the character into a tough spot almost immediately. McCone's gritty determination has survived not only the comfortable affluence of a half-dozen recent novels, but the real and shattering assaults of the last two or three.
The 5-star rating is for the adventure, no points off for white space. (And boo to those people who have started giving Amazon no-stars based on Kindle prices. The author doesn't set that price. Geeze, even I'm not that grumpy.)
I was also thinking the book would pick up with her still having inpatient care and all her frustrations of being a patient and not being able to do things for herself; i.e. asking for help,which was never her strong suit to begin with!
Well, I was not disappointed one bit with this latest installment. While Sharon gets off to a slow start in her efforts to be part of the agency in a more physical and leadership role, she ends up getting involved in a case that could either make her or break her, and cause serious problems in all her relationships.
The format of the book is written in the style of switching back and forth between all the employees and her husband, Hy, and their thoughts and feelings revolving around a case that at first was a simple missing person, who Sharon had become attached to while going through her rigorous physical and speech therapy needed for her recovery. It quickly becomes far reaching with a multiple sub-plot, including political cover ups, and higher ups which could and does bring dangerous consequences to all the players from the agency, including her spouse, Hy. I normally don't care for this type of format, switching back and forth but in this book, it worked perfectly and was very easy to follow.
There was a theme running through the book that Sharon was very afraid she would never be able to do the things she used to do, and that she had lost that part of herself to her core that made her the woman she was before she was injured and left for dead.
What I liked most about this book is that it was a tribute to Sharon's fight for life and to get back all the things and qualties that made her one of the best PI's in this genre. At the same time, she was not having a pity party and just giving up! In fact, it actually gave her hope that she could be even better.
Once I started reading this book, I had to finish it in one sitting! It was simply amazing, and I am so grateful that Ms. Muller wrote this book. I highly recommend this book. It has plenty of action, some great insights into all the employees and her husband that we normally don't see in the other books, and flows smoothly, is suspenseful and quite entertaining.
McCone's horrific experience of "locked-in syndrome" slips conveniently into irrelevance as she powers through the doubts of coworkers in pursuit of the culprits with her crack investigators, supported by a technologically savvy staff and the resources of her husband's private security business. That isn't to say no one gets killed- they do- but there is no real build up of tension to suggest the missing patient from McCone's rehab hospital and the kidnapped former SFPD homicide detective won't survive the machinations of a well-organized criminal conspiracy. The result is a thriller that fails to thrill, only hints at a promise it fails to keep. This patchwork of people and actions almost succeeds, but the author relies too heavily on formula and not enough on her own instinct. Luan Gaines/2010.
There were several plot devices that I thought stretched credulity. SPOILER ALERT. The worst of these was the introdution of an upcoming trial where Sharon was supposed to appear as a witness. By an amazing coincidence the pivotal character in this book is mentioned in the court papers, but the case has no relevance to the plot.
I am not usually a fan of the James Patterson type of two page chapters, but in this case it worked. Rather than jumping around from character to character in the same chapter, Mueller devoted single chapters to each character and described the action from an individual perspective.
I did not think this was the best of the series, but it was satisfying enough to recommend. Ideally a reader should start with the first book in the series and follow Sharon's growth as a detective and a woman. I can't wait for the next entry in the adventure.
That being said, it's still better than most of the stuff on the market today, and you can never go wrong reading about Sharon & her crew.