'The Night Searchers': Author's latest thriller, isn't as much

I was a loyal reader of Marcia Muller’s Sharon McCone mysteries for a long time. McCone — gutsy, smart, determined — was easily one of my favorite fictional detectives. But as a series progressed, I grew less enamored of her adventures.

The problem was Hy Rapinsky, a character who brought high-tech gadgetry and villains with international profiles to the novels. I stuck with the transition to larger-scale thrillers for a while, but while McCone fell in love with Rapinsky, I didn’t, and I let the series go. The series clicked along without me, of course, with Muller collecting a Shamus award for “Locked In” several books after I stopped reading.

I spotted the newest entry, “The Night Searchers,” recently, and I decided I missed McCone more than I disliked Rapinsky. And the opening for the new book, the 31st in the series, was promising. It found McCone reminiscing about the earlier days of her career, missing the same things I missed about her original adventures.

And while Rapinsky has a role to play in “The Night Searchers,” he spends a good portion of the book offstage, and McCone does what she does best: unravels a mystery on the streets of San Francisco.

The plot is built around a group of nighttime adventurers who play a strange game and may be up to something sinister. Details of the game are fuzzy, and this is perhaps the biggest weakness in “The Night Searchers.”

By and large, however, Muller offers a satisfying puzzle, and I was glad to go adventuring with McCone again.

At book’s end, McCone and Rapinsky are headed for an even deeper professional collaboration.

I’m not thrilled about it, but “The Night Searchers” is good enough to ensure I’ll be searching out the next McCone novel.

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