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The Dangerous Hour    by Marcia Muller order for
Dangerous Hour
by Marcia Muller
Order:  USA  Can
Mysterious Press, 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, Audio, CD

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This is the first Sharon McCone mystery that I have read, and I enjoyed it. It's a nice change to read about not only a strong female PI, but also the entire agency that she manages. This episode takes place in a matter of weeks from July 11th to August 9th.

McCone really should have touched wood before gloating over her business's 'present healthy state and bright future prospects' on the first page. Soon her life feels 'as if it could use duct tape.' A young employee, Julia Rafael, is arrested for grand theft, the agency itself is under investigation by licensing authorities, Sharon's longtime love Hy has been incommunicado ever since he raised the topic of marriage with her, and her aging cat Ralph is diagnosed with diabetes. But this heroine is no quitter; she rallies her staff around her, and they all dig furiously, trying to find out who is trying to bring them down.

Soon Shar finds that Julia's accuser - Alex Aguilar, supervisor and co-founder of a Mission district job-training center - is not the white knight that he purports to be. He bullies his apartment neighbors, and has had a scary ex-con named R. D. as a houseguest. His partner died suspiciously and others connected to the case cannot be found. McCone follows her old mentor's advice to 'Look for the unusual'. But as she begins to find it, friends and family are targeted in what begins to seem like a very personal vendetta. As McCone gets closer to a killer, we begin to wonder if she will survive the 'Dangerous Hour'.

Muller gives us a steady, intriguing PI procedural with a capable, people-oriented heroine, who's protective of her friends and willing to admit to her own weaknesses. Shar outsmarts the villain, hires interesting new employees, and flies into the sunset with Hy, in an ending sure to please series fans.

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