Marcia Muller’s twenty-ninth detective novel (check out her other novels here), Looking For Yesterday, is neither a captivating mystery nor one that is difficult to solve before the detective. In this novel, the detective, Sharon McCone, owns a private detective agency where she takes on cases both large and small
In Looking For Yesterday the case is of a smaller scale. Caro Warrick was acquitted of the murder of her best friend three years prior, and the murder goes unsolved. Warrick hires McCone to confirm her innocence by finding the real killer for a book she is coauthoring. Before much can happen, Warrick is beaten to death on McCone’s doorstep. McCone continues to investigate when the other author continues to pay her fees. The rest of the novel is McCone wandering around following leads that seemingly lead nowhere. After a climactic chapter where her house burns to the ground, she quickly solves the murder of Warrick’s best friend by bringing back characters that were only briefly mentioned in the beginning.
Throughout Looking for Yesterday the convoluted family tree of detective McCone is explained and brief interludes of family happenings break up her periods of detecting. While personal information about the detective can often create a bond between reader and detective, in this case, the information about McCone is simply unnecessary and does not make her more relatable to the reader. Her husband works for an international detective agency that has a fleet of private planes and headquarters all over the world. Her brother-in-law is a famous country musician who lives in a gated neighborhood. And finally, McCone herself bought an abandoned house and completely remodeled it, and when her house burns down (the one sympathetic moment I had for McCone), her husband’s company is there to save the day with a complementary suite. While I would love to live a life with private planes and famous relatives, I don’t. There is no consistent sidekick that the reader can relate to, and I felt alienated from McCone.
The strongest aspect of Looking For Yesterday is the combination of dialogue and description. The book takes place in Northern California, mostly in San Francisco, and while I’ve never been to NorCal, I was able to picture the marina, vineyards, and business districts Muller described perfectly. For example, Muller writes
“[…] light gleamed down on a terrazzo floor from dozens of tiny spots mounted beams of the ceiling. A copper-covered bar fronted the wall of wine racks” (101-102)
The entire novel is full of long and poetic descriptions, so easy to picture that I felt I was in the room with detective McCone. It was as if I too, was at the restaurants eating delicious food, at the winery indulging in some wine-tasting, and stuck in a vandalized old-fashioned elevator hoping the cables wouldn’t snap.
When Warrick was a child, her brother accidentally shot their sister with a gun their father had left carelessly around. Warrick became a vocal anti-gun activist. Throughout the novel, the irony of Warrick being so against guns, yet supposedly shooting her best friend, as well as the use of guns for protection by McCone. This theme of gun control versus safe use by those that know how to use them is covered extensively.
Like An Unsuitable Job For a Woman by P.D James, many characters doubt the female detective’s abilities, and both Cordelia (the detective in An Unsuitable Job For a Woman) and McCone prove the individuals wrong by solving the murders and learning something about themselves.
Marcia Muller has been writing detective novels since 1977, when she wrote her first Sharon McCone novel, Edwin of the Iron Shoes. Looking For Yesterday was written over thirty years later, in 2012. Looking for Yesterday would be better read as partof the series, and not as a stand alone novel, as anecdotes mentioned make no sense without the context of previous novels.
Out of five stars, I would give it three. It was a quick read with a female detective, which I always support, but it was too simple and too focused on the detective’s personal life.
Clark, Barbara. “Looking for Yesterday.” Bookpage, 6 Nov 2012, https://bookpage.com/ review s/7669-marcia-muller-looking-yesterday#.Whi14raZPzU. Accessed 24 Nov 2017.
“Looking for Yesterday (Sharon McCone #29)”. Goodreads, https://www.goodreads.com/ book/ show/13528492-looking-for-yesterday. Accessed 24 Nov. 2017.
“Marcia Muller Books in Order.” Book Series in Order, https://www.bookseriesinorder .com/ma rcia-muller/. Accessed 24 Nov 2017.
Muller, Marcia. Looking for Yesterday. Grand Central Publishing, 2013.