Sharon McCone is a private investigator who, just after attending the funeral of a brother who committed suicide, is asked by her longtime friend and attorney to look into the suicide of his godson, Roger Nagasawa. Not sure she wants to take the case at all because it will force her to examine the reasons that prompted her own brother to commit such an act, her friend nevertheless convinces her that because of her own circumstances, she is the most likely one to find the true reason for the young man’s death. The common belief by family and friends is that Roger couldn’t take the stress dished out at the magazine where he worked and took a nosedive off the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. But as Sharon does a little extra digging, she finds there’s more to the magazine than meets the eye. Behind the calm façade in the workroom is a group of back-stabbing, mounting debt, and infighting for power positions, and it soon becomes apparent that something, or someone else, caused Roger’s death besides mere stress. And while that something does have to do with the magazine, it’s up to Sharon to somehow get someone within the ranks to talk to her.
While Sharon strives to put the pieces of Roger’s life together, she also tried to come to terms with her own brother’s seemingly senseless death, but the answers to her mounting questions continue to elude her. The further she investigates the case, the closer danger stalks her, until a dear friend is murdered, she’s being questioned by the police, and her star witness has disappeared.
The heroine is as humanly rendered as a next door neighbor, which makes for a compelling read as Sharon McCone is no Tomb Raider type heroine, invincible and a match for any situation. Muller’s heroine is heading toward middle age and plagued by doubts and vulnerabilities, which endear her to the reader and make the story seem so much more real and immediate. Though she’s no pushover, McCone is powerful without being macho, intelligent without being superior, and fallible enough to be recognized as a fictional equal.
Author Marcia Muller has penned over a dozen ‘Sharon McCone’ mysteries, and Dead Midnight is one of her best to date. Her characters are utterly human and fallible, her plots and subplots twist and weave until they create a seemingly tangled web of lies, subterfuge and murder. Muller expertly yet slowly unwraps every strand, stealthily exposing secret upon secret as the case begins to unravel for her heroine and the reader alike, leaving both hanging by a thread until the truth is discovered in a thoroughly satisfying conclusion.