Marcia Muller is the author of more than thirty mysteries and has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Private Eye Writers of America.
This is the first book I’ve read by Marcia Muller and, while I found it entertaining, I found it also to be fairly standard mystery fare, albeit standard fare done well. I suppose The Dangerous Hour could be described as the American equivalent of the English “cozy” mystery in which an Angela Lansbury-type woman is caught in the middle of a crime and solves the case.
But being American, the woman in this novel also has a little Mickey Spillane in her. Sharon McCone is part den mother and part hard-boiled detective who runs her own agency off a pier in San Francisco, California. McCone (Shar to her friends) thinks things are going along all right in her life (her only problem being the question: Should she marry her boyfriend…or not?) when suddenly Julia, an employee, is charged with credit card fraud, a fraud that pulls the detective agency into its vortex and threatens its very existence. Shar also learns at the same time that one of her two cats has diabetes.
Things start getting worse. Julia is shot and rushed to the hospital. An investigation is initiated into the agency by the police, and threats against McCone’s life ensue.
The characterization is good. The prose I found at times almost police-report-like, (when better writing should have been used), but at other points in the book the writing improved so as to enhance the suspenseful moments.
I liked the book overall, but my complaint with this particular mystery is that the first half of the novel seems almost irrelevant to the solution of the mystery. A bit past the halfway mark, someone finds a box of records in the back of a closet and, lo and behold, the culprit is discovered from reading these records. From then on, the book turns into more of a showdown/suspense novel than a true mystery, with McCone and the villain (a nasty one) involved in a kind of cat-and-mouse game.
If you’re looking for a good beach book or some fun reading entertainment at home or on an airplane flight, The Dangerous Hour will serve very nicely.