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Cyanide Wells

Cyanide Wells

4.0 3
by Marcia Muller, J. Charles (Read by), Sandra Burr (Read by), J, Charles (Read by)

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In Point Deception, Marcia Muller departed from her award-winning series starring San Francisco P.I. Sharon McCone with a tale set on the wild and untamed coast of northern California. Now Muller returns to Soledad County to explore the ways in which people and passions twist, turn, and kill....


A hard, four-hour


In Point Deception, Marcia Muller departed from her award-winning series starring San Francisco P.I. Sharon McCone with a tale set on the wild and untamed coast of northern California. Now Muller returns to Soledad County to explore the ways in which people and passions twist, turn, and kill....


A hard, four-hour drive north of San Francisco leads to sparsely populated Soledad County, a combination of spectacular seashore, inland forests, and small towns steeped in gold-mining history. One of those towns is Cyanide Wells, now an artsy community, whose name comes from the miners' use of cyanide to refine ore and the time the area's water supply was tragically poisoned.

To Matthew Lindstrom, that sinister legacy is ironically appropriate for the place he finally expects to find his ex-wife, Gwen. Fourteen years earlier, her baffling disappearance branded him a murderer and destroyed his reputation and career as a photographer. Suddenly, after all this time, an anonymous phone caller tells him that Gwen is alive-and well aware of what she has done. Matt comes to Cyanide Wells looking for answers…and revenge.

Here, where the surrounding thick forest conceals twisted paths and old sins, Matt works to uncover the details of Gwen's new life. But before he can confront her, his ex vanishes once more. With his future again threatened by suspicion, Matt must join forces with Carly McGuire-a local woman with secrets of her own-and begin a hunt through Soledad's untamed landscape and an interior geography of betrayal and darkness. There perhaps lies the truth about past crimes and Gwen's fate...as well as Matt's own.

Editorial Reviews

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
Publishers Weekly
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.
Library Journal
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.
Kirkus Reviews
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 wife—though he’s temporarily (he hopes) separated from her—which 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.

Product Details

Brilliance Audio
Publication date:
Edition description:
Unabridged, 5 cassettes, 7 hrs.
Product dimensions:
4.14(w) x 7.26(h) x 2.62(d)

Read an Excerpt

p>Saugatuck, Minnesota
Thursday, July 28, 1988

"Matthew Lindstrom?"


"This is Sheriff Cliff Brandt of Sweetwater County, Wyoming. Are you married to a Gwen Lindstrom?"

". . . Yes, I am."

"And she drives a white Toyota Tercel, this year's model, Minnesota license number four-four-three-B-C-Y?"

"That's correct. What's this about, Sheriff?"

"Her car was found in my jurisdiction, parked by the side of County Road Eleven, eight miles from Reliance. That's a farming community north of Interstate Eighty. Nothing wrong with the vehicle, but there were bloodstains on the dash and other signs consistent with a struggle. A purse containing her identification and credit cards was on the passenger's seat."

"And Gwen? What about Gwen?"

"No sign of her. Tell me, Mr. Lindstrom, does she know anyone in Reliance? Or Sweetwater County?"

"As far as I know, she's never been to Wyoming."

"When did you last see Mrs. Lindstrom?"

"Two weeks ago, on the fourteenth."

"Two weeks ago? And you've got no idea where she's been since then?"

"We're separated. Have filed for divorce. We met on the fourteenth to go over the property settlement."

"I see. Messy divorce?"

"Amicable. We have no children and very little in the way of assets."

"There was a student ID from Saugatuck College in your wife's purse."

"Yes, she's a senior in the journalism department."

"And what do you do, Mr. Lindstrom?"

"I teach photography there, operate a small studio on the side. Mostly wedding portraits, that sort of— Why are you asking me these questions? And what are you doing to find Gwen?"

"Just familiarizing myself with the situation. I take it you can account for your whereabouts during the past two weeks?"

"Of course I can! I was here in Saugatuck, teaching summer courses. Now, what are you doing to find—"

"Don't get all exercised, Mr. Lindstrom. My last question was strictly routine. As for finding your wife, we plan to circularize her photograph, but we're hoping you can provide a better likeness than the one on her driver's license."

"I'll overnight several to you. If you find her, will you please ask her to call me? Or if . . ."

"If Mr. Lindstrom?"

"Well, if something's happened to her . . ."

"Don't worry. We'll be in touch."

Thousand Springs, Nevada
Thursday, July 28, 1988

"That's a bad place to hitchhike. Somebody could pick you off coming around the curve. Where're you headed?"

"West. Where're you going?"

"All the way to Soledad County, California."

"Good a place as any, I guess. If you'd like some company . . ."

"Hop in."

"Thanks, I really appreciate it. I was starting to get spooked, all alone here."

"Why were you alone, anyway?"

"My last ride dropped me off. I kind of . . . had trouble with him."

"That'll happen. Hitching's not the safest way for a woman to travel."

"I know, but it's the only way I've got."

"How long have you been on the road?"

"A couple of days."

"Coming from where?"

"East. What's this place—Soledad County—like?"

"Pretty. Coast, forest, foothills, small towns."

"Lots of people live there?"

"No. We're one of the most sparsely populated in the upper half of the state. Isolated, too; it's a four-hour drive to San Francisco, even longer to Sacramento because of bad roads."

"Sounds nice."

"Well, you've got to like the quiet life, and I do. I live in the country, near a little town called Cyanide Wells."

"So you think Soledad County is really a good place to live?"

"If you want, I'll sing its praises all the way there. By the way, my name's Carly McGuire."

"Mine's Ardis Coleman."

Port Regis, British Columbia
Sunday, April 21, 2002

Matthew Lindstrom?"


"I'm calling about your wife."

"I have no wife."

"Oh, yes, you do. Gwen Lindstrom—"

"My wife disappeared fourteen years ago. Our divorce went through shortly after that."

"I know, Mr. Lindstrom. And I know about your legal and professional difficulties surrounding the situation. They must have been very painful. Put an end to your life as you'd known it, didn't they?"

"Who is this?"

"A friend. My identity's not important. What's important is that your wife is very much alive. And very cognizant of what she put you through when she disappeared."

"Listen, whoever you are—"

"Aren't you curious? I'm sure I would be if I were you."

"All right, I'll go along with your game. Where is Gwen?"

"Soledad County, California. Has lived there for the past fourteen years near a place called Cyanide Wells, under the name of Ardis Coleman."

"Ardis Coleman? My God, that was Gwen's mother's maiden name."

"Well, there you go. Let me ask you this, Mr. Lindstrom: Will revenge taste good served up cold, after the passage of all those years?"


"Surely you must feel some impulse in that direction, considering . . ."

"What the hell are you trying to do to me? Who are you?"

"As I said, a friend."

"I don't believe a word of this!"

"Then I suggest you check it out, Mr. Lindstrom. Check it out."

Cyanide Wells, California
Sunday, April 21, 2002

"Hey, Ard, you're awfully quiet. Something wrong?"

"Nothing that I can pin down, but I feel . . . I didn't sleep well last night. Bad dreams, the kind you can't remember afterwards, but their aura lingers like a hangover."

"Maybe it's your book. It can't be easy reliving that time. And from what I've read, it's a much more personal account than what you wrote for the paper."

"It is, but that's how I want it, Carly. Besides, I don't think this is about the book—at least not completely."

"What, then?"

"Matt, maybe."

"After all these years?"

"I've been thinking of him a lot lately. Wondering . . ."

"And feeling guilty, I suppose."

"In a way. When I found out they suspected him of murdering me, I should've come forward."

"You found out way after the fact. And when you did try to contact him, he was gone, no forwarding."

"I know, but instead of trying to find out where he'd gone, I just felt relieved. I didn't want to hurt him any more than I already had."

"So he's better off."

"No, he'd've been better off if I'd been honest from the first. I could've—"

"As my aunt Nan used to say, 'Coulda's, woulda's, and shoulda's don't amount to a hill of beans.'"

"I guess. But I'm concerned for Natalie. My anxiety's obvious, and it upsets her."

"She hasn't said anything about it to me."

"You know her; she's a child who holds everything inside. Carly, d'you think I'm being irrational?"

". . . You're stressed. You'll get over it once the book is done."

"Will I? Sometimes I think that given all the terrible things I've done, I don't deserve another good night's sleep in this lifetime."

Copyright © 2003 by Pronzini-Muller Family Trust

Meet the Author

MARCIA MULLER has written many novels and short stories. Her novel Wolf in the Shadows won the Anthony Boucher Award. The recipient of the Private Eye Writers of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award and the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Award - their highest accolade - she lives in northern California with her husband, mystery writer Bill Pronzini.

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Cyanide Wells 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Pairing performers Sandra Burr and J. Charles proves to be a champion idea as their combined reading gives a depth and richness to this audio of Marcia Muller's compelling thriller. With a wealth of experience on radio, television, and commercial videos Ms. Burr is not only an accomplished performer but directs with equal skill.. Veteran actor J. Charles is also a talented scenic and lighting designer. California is a lush state that can be both breathtakingly beautiful and threatening. The same might be said of the Golden State's Soledad County, especially a small town named Cyanide Wells. Today that community is home for those with a penchant for the avant garde. In yesteryear it was a gold mining town whose residents found that their water supply had been laced with cyanide. Such a history doesn't bode well for the future nor does Matthew Lindstrom's past. Gwen, his former wife, disappeared over a decade ago resulting in Matt being thought a murderer and his career in ruin. He comes to Cyanide Wells in hopes of finding Gwen, clearing his name, and exacting a pound of flesh for what he has suffered. What he finds is Carly McGuire, a woman with a past of her own, and a snarled web of deception that he may or may not be able to untangle. Marcia Muller never disappoints, as is shown once more with 'Cyanide Wells.'
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1988 Minnesota, Matthew Lindstrom receives the call from a Wyoming sheriff that the car of his estranged wife Gwen has been found in Sweetwater County. Apparently, bloodstains are on the vehicle. No body is found and the case goes cold, but Matthew¿s neighbors, family, friends, and peers at the college he teaches at believe he killed Gwen rather than accept a divorce. He is treated as a social pariah and eventually he loses his job. His once serene life in Minnesota is over.

Fourteen years later, Matthew lives somewhat like a hermit but is relatively contented in Port Regis, British Columbia, where he owns the charter boat Queen Charlotte. Last night he receives an anonymous phone call that an Ardis Coleman, living in Cyanide Wells, California, is Gwen. Still needing closure by obtaining answers to why she left, especially since the caller insisted she knew what she did to him. Motivated by revenge, Matthew decides to travel south to confront her. Instead of the confrontation, Matt finds his ex vanishes again leaving blood in the home she resided in with her lesbian lover newspaper editor Carly McGuire. She has taken her daughter with her. Matt and Carly join forces seeking the missing Gwen-Ardis.

CYANIDE WELLS is an exciting character driven mystery that the fans of Marcia Muller¿s Sharon McCone tales will enjoy. The story line is loaded with action though things seem to come too easily to Matt, who along with Carly seem real as they struggle with the duplicity of the woman they loved. However, what hooks the audience is trying to understand Gwen-Ardis, which means reading the novel in one delightful sitting.

Harriet Klausner