The Barnes & Noble Review
In a change of pace from her bestselling series featuring San Francisco P.I. Sharon McCone, award-winning author Marcia Muller offers readers a fascinating new stand-alone mystery in Cyanide Wells. The artsy town of Cyanide Wells stands amid the old-growth forests of Soledad County in northern California. The town's name harks back to its history during the Gold Rush era, when cyanide used to refine valuable ore resulted in tragedy. These days, however, it doesn't take poison to bring turmoil to the town. Some people carry trouble along with them. Thanks to his wife, Gwen, Matt Lindstrom learned plenty about trouble. Fourteen years ago she'd disappeared under suspicious circumstances. The belief that he might be responsible ruined Matt's life and his photographic career. Eventually, he'd moved, started over…and given up hope of finding out what had really happened to Gwen. Then, out of the blue, he gets an anonymous call saying Gwen is in Cyanide Wells…and that she'd meant for him to be blamed for her death. Now Matt isn't sure whether he's looking for closure or revenge, but whichever it is, he's heading for Cyanide Wells, where past and present will finally come together. His planned confrontation goes awry, though, when Gwen disappears again, leaving bloodstains in the hallway of her home. This time suspicion rests on her lover, Carly McGuire, who is as determined as Matt is to find the elusive woman…and the child she's taken with her. Spectacular scenery, compelling characters, and an intricate plot make this a powerful, passionate mystery. Sue Stone
Anthony-winner Muller delivers another stand-alone (after 2001's Point Deception) set in northern California's fictional Soledad County that fails to measure up to her bestselling Sharon McCone series (Dead Midnight, etc.). After being unjustly suspected of murdering his missing ex-wife, Gwen, Matthew Lindstrom moved from Minnesota, where he taught college photography, to British Columbia, where he operates an excursion boat. When 14 years later an anonymous phone caller tells him Gwen is living in Cyanide Wells, Calif., as Ardis Coleman, Matt goes there to find her and clear his name. Hired by the local newspaper, which has won a Pulitzer for a series on the murder of a gay couple penned by the erratic Ardis, Matt discovers that his ex-wife is in a lesbian relationship with hot-headed newspaper editor Carly McGuire, with whom she shares a mixed-race daughter. When Ardis and the child vanish, Matt and Carly join forces to track them down. While Muller vividly paints the rugged northern California coast with its decaying towns and abandoned logging and mining areas now giving way to retirement communities, she leaves out her usual complicated characters and plot twists. Matt too easily gets the newspaper job, elicits confidences and uncovers secrets. The villains are pretty obvious, as is the secret behind the gay murders. Muller fans may prefer to wait for another McCone novel. Mystery Guild Main Selection. (July 16) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
This is one of Muller's rare standalone novels set in the fictional Northern California county of Soledad. After being a prime suspect in the murder of his missing ex-wife, photographer Matt Lindstrom moves to British Columbia to operate a fishing guide business. Fourteen years later, his new life is upset when an anonymous phone call informs him that Gwen is living in the small town of Cyanide Wells under the name of Ardis Coleman. Matt hotfoots it to clear his name and confront his ex, only to find her in a lesbian relationship with a newspaper publisher and raising a mixed-race daughter. Within a couple of days Gwen/Ardis and the child vanish and the mystery is on. While this is not one of the author's better stories-the listener will guess the truth long before the protagonists-the reading is competently done by that old pro Sandra Burr, with J. Charles performing the chapters from Matt's point of view. The narration is so good that the listener will forget that the tale is rather lame and the coincidences rather too many and too convenient. Not an essential purchase, but still enjoyable for Muller fans.-Barbara Perkins, formerly with Irving P.L., TX Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Furloughing Sharon McCone after 22 cases (Dead Midnight, 2002, etc.), Muller delivers a brisk, tidy number without her. Matthew Lindstrom likes his life, loves his wifethough he’s temporarily (he hopes) separated from herwhich is why he’s devastated when the sheriff’s phone call reports Gwen’s car, bloodstained and abandoned, parked on the side of a country road. As the weeks pass and she continues missing, suspicion inevitably settles on the husband. Without a body, the cops can’t build a case against him, but the neighbors can. Matthew loses his friends as people ostentatiously cross streets to avoid social contamination. He loses his teaching job. Indeed he loses his life, at least the life that had so satisfied him, and begins a long odyssey that finally ends in Port Regis, British Columbia, where he surfaces as the surprisingly contented owner of a moderately successful charter boat. He’s reclusive, but the few people who know him like him, and he’s come to terms with what he has and what he’s lost. Then, 14 years later, another phone call, no less disruptive than the sheriff’s, informs him that Ardis Coleman, who’s very much alive in Cyanide Wells, California, was once Gwen Lindstrom. A little hokey sometimes, but Muller’s best plotting in years makes it irresistible.