Stretching flat across the water, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is a popular spot...for jumpers. Roger Nagasawa, a brilliant employee at a popular Internet magazine, is its latest "suicide" and veteran P. I. Sharon McCone's new case. But instead of getting closure for his family, McCone uncovers more questions than answers: Roger's stark apartment...his aloof parents, who had wanted an investigation and now refuse to talk...a cutthroat workplace...a cache of secrets in a shady waterfront deal. It's a puzzle within a puzzle with a deadly game at its heart. For the elusive, twisted trail is about to circle back into Sharon McCone's own life-and bring the danger home.
About the Author
Marcia Muller has written many novels and short stories. She has won six Anthony Awards, a Shamus Award, and is also the recipient of the Private Eye Writers of America's Lifetime Achievement Award as well as the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Award (their highest accolade). She lives in northern California with her husband, mystery writer Bill Pronzini.
Read an Excerpt
At one time or another, it happens to everyone. A call comes late at night, bringing news of the death of someone close, and with it a nightmarish sense of unreality. You entertain selfish thoughts: Why is this happening to me? Then you immediately feel ashamed because tragedy has not actually struck you. You, after all, are still alive, healthy, and reasonably sane.
Practicalities intrude, because they are a way of keeping the pain at bay. To whom to break the news, and how? What arrangements must be made? How badly will your life be disrupted? But in the end it all boils down to loss and finality in my case, loss and finality heaped upon recent losses and betrayals.
My call came at eleven-twenty P.M., from a deputy sheriff in Humboldt County, some two hundred and seventy miles north of San Francisco. Deputy Steve Brouillette. I'd spoken with him several times over the past six months, but he'd never had any news for me. Now he did, and it was bad. My brother Joey was dead at age forty-five. By his own hand.
"I'd hate to think we're going to be making a habit of this." My brother John's remark, I knew, was intended to provide comic relief but, given the nature of the situation, it was destined to fail. I looked up at him, shielding my eyes against the afternoon sun, and saw his snub-nosed face was etched with pain. He slouched under the high wing of the Cessna 170B, one hand resting on its strut, his longish hair blowing in the breeze. With surprise I noted strands of white interwoven with the blond of his sideburns. Surely they hadn't been there at Christmas time?
"Sorry," he said, "but it's a thought that must've occurred to you too."
My gaze shifted across San Diego's Lindbergh Field to the west, where we'd earlier scattered Joey's ashes at sea. Joey, the family clown. Joey, whom we'd assumed had never entertained a somber thought in his life. The dumb but much loved one; the wanderer who was sorely missed at family gatherings; the worker who more often than not was fired from his low-end jobs but still managed to land on his feet.
Joey, a suicide.
"Yes," I said, "it's occurred to me. First Pa, now this." "And Ma and Melvin aren't getting any younger." "Who is?" I moved away and began walking around the plane. A red taildragger with jaunty blue trim, Two-fivetwo- seven-Tango was my prize possession, co-owned with my longtime love,Hy Ripinsky. I ran my hand over the fuselage, checked the elevators and rudder-preflighting, because I felt a sudden urge to be away from there.
John followed me. "I keep trying to figure out why he did it."
I went along the other side of the plane without responding.
As he gave me a boost up so I could check the fuel level in the left tank, he added, "What could've gone that wrong with his life? That he'd kill himself ?" "I don't know."
John hadn't wanted to talk about Joey when I'd arrived last night, and he'd been mostly silent on today's flight over the Pacific and later at lunch in the terminal restaurant. Now, in the visitor tie-downs, he seemed determined to initiate a weighty discussion.
"I mean, he had a lot going for himself when he disappeared. A good job, a nice woman"
"And a crappy trailer filled with empty booze and pill bottles." I eased off the strut and continued my checks. "From what Humboldt County told me when they called, the shack where he offed himself had the same decor." John grunted;my harsh words had shocked him. Shocked me, too, because up till now I hadn't been aware of how much anger I felt toward Joey.
I opened the engine cowling and stared blankly inside. One of those strange lapses, like walking into a room and not knowing what you went there for. Jesus, McCone, I thought, get a grip. I reached in to check the oil, distracted by memories of my search for Joey.
When Pa died early in the previous September, we hadn't been able to reach Joey at his last address, and it wasn't till the end of the month that John traced him to a run-down trailer park near the Mendocino County hamlet of Anchor Bay. By then he'd disappeared again, leaving behind all his possessions and a brokenhearted girlfriend. I immediately began a trace of my own, but gave up after two fruitless months, assuming thatin typical Joey fashionhe'd resurface when he was good and ready. Then, this past Monday, the call from Deputy Brouillette. Joey had been found dead of an alcoholandbarbiturate overdose in a shabby rental house in Samoa, a mill town northwest of Eureka.His handwritten note simply said, "I'm sorry."
I shut the cowling and climbed up to check the right fuel tank. I was replacing its cap when John spoke again. "Shar, haven't you wondered? Why he did it?" "Of course I have." I twisted the caphard, and not just for safety's sakeand lowered myself to the ground. Why was he doing this now, when he knew I wanted to leave? "We should've realized something was wrong. There must've been signs.We could've helped him."
I wiped my oil-slick fingers on my jeans. "John, there was no way we could've known."
"But we should've. He was our brother." "Look, you and I lived with Joey for what was actually a very short time. He was five years older than I, and for the most part we went our separate ways. I doubt I ever had a real conversation with him. And as far as I know, all the two of you ever did together was stick your noses under the hoods of cars, drink beer, and get in trouble with the cops. During the past fifteen years, Ma's the only one who got so much as a card or a call from him. Half the time we didn't know where he was living or what he was doing. So you tell me how we could've seen signs and known he needed help." John sighed, giving up the illusion. "I guess that's what makes it so hard to deal with."
"Yeah, it is."
I took the keys to the plane from my pocket, and his eyes moved to them. "So where're you headed?" "Hy's ranch for the Easter weekend, then back to San Francisco. I've got a new hire to bring up to speed at the agency, and a Monday lunch with an attorney who throws a lot of business my way."
"Gonna keep yourself busy, keep your mind off Joey." "Is that so bad?" He shook his head.
Not so bad to try to forget that sometimes people we love commit self-destructive acts that are enough to temporarily turn that love to hatred.
Copyright © 2002 by Pronzini-Muller Family Trust
Table of Contents
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
marcia muller has every book in the sharon mccone series on audio except this one. it was the final persuasion to convince me to purchase an e-reader. the book certainly was worth the price of the nook because now i can read book #22, lol. truly the equal to all of her other mccone books.
A friend recently introduced me to the Sharon McCone mysteries, as I call them, I totally love them. These are great reads. I love that they aren't too long or involved but everything seems to get wrapped up nice and neat. I agree with some of the reviewers there were a lot of people to keep track of in this book. The other thing with these stories is they can be a little confusing if you haven't read any of the other ones - for example she talks to Hy but it seems that if you don't know her/their background you could really be lost - I hd a little trouble because the one I read before this her nephew Mick was dating someone else, so I wasn't sure who this new character/operative was, so sometimes a little backstory would be helpful.
I LOVED 'LISTEN TO THE SILENCE' BUT THIS STORY WAS TOO INVOLVED AND HARD TO KEEP TRACK OF WHAT CHARACTER IS DOING WHAT. I DON'T THINK MOST READERS WOULD CARE FOR THIS BOOK.
I have read them all from the very beginning. And I can trully say, This one stinks. There are too many characters. The story wanders and wanders and suddenly it is over. It sounded like a good story in the beginning but something went terribly wrong.
As everyone is wont to say: time does fly. It's a quarter of a century since ace mystery author Marcia Muller brought San Francisco private eye Sharon McCone onto the literary scene. McCone was one of the first female PIs, and one of the most compelling. She still is. It's hard to believe that Muller is getting better because, for many, she started at the top rung of this genre. Nonetheless, 'Dead Midnight' is superb, above and beyond her past work. With this, the 22nd McCone adventure, McCone is still trying to recover from the suicide of her brother. Then, there is another suicide. A talented, hip, young man who has a good job with an online magazine takes his own life. What caused him to leap from the Bay Bridge? His family's sorrow pierces McCone's heart as she relives the grief she felt and still feels at the loss of her brother. Perhaps it is this empathy that enures her to the danger she soon finds herself in. Muller is one in a million and so is McCone.
In San Francisco private investigator Sharon McCone does not know which feeling rips her guts worse. Is it the guilt for not realizing how depressed her brother was or is the grief that Joey killed himself? Though reluctant to investigate the suicide of Roger Nagasawa, Sharon believes work is the best thing to keep her mind off of Joey even if there appears surface parallels. Roger worked for a popular Internet magazine that highlighted the in happenings in the Bay area. Her inquiries lead Sharon to conclude Roger was going to expose the management of his magazine that is somehow failing in spite of strong loyalty and plenty of capital. However, Roger¿s proof is missing. Other key players also have vanished as McCone works the West Coast to keep other participants from leaping off of a bridge. In spite of the underlying suicide theme that is handled reasonably well though overkilled (bad taste pun), DEAD MIDNIGHT is a fun who-done-it for those readers who want a story line faster than a world class 100 yard dash or even a quarter horse race. McCone races faster than speeding Flash as she overcomes her feelings of inadequacy and self-culpability with Joey¿s death to follow the clues. Marcia Muller furnishes an interesting McCone entry. Harriet Klausner