Friday, November 09, 2007

Edwin of the Iron Shoes - Marcia Muller

First published 1977; cover shown is the 1978 Penguin Books (UK) paperback edition. Cover by Neil Stuart and Robert Reed. 178p.

The Edwin of the title is a boy carved from wood, a permanent fixture in a San Francisco antique store. Along with a headless fashion mannequin and a stuffed German Shepherd, Edwin keeps the store owner, Joanie, company. And when Joanie is found murdered - stabbed to death with one of her own antique knives - Edwin of the iron shoes will ultimately be the key to solving the case.

Sharon McCone, an investigator for a legal services cooperative, is hired by the local store owners to investigate Joanie's murder. With the agreement of Gregory Marcus, a strangely antagonistic Homicide officer, Sharon takes over Joanie's shop, ostensibly taking inventory while following up leads behind the scenes.

And there are no shortage of leads. The area where Joanie's shop is located is coveted by a number of real estate companies, each no doubt capable of resorting to underhanded tactics to get the store owners to sell... but which of them (if any) would resort to murder? Things heat up quickly, with an arson attack and petty vandalism keeping Sharon on her toes. When she uncovers the truth about Joanie - that her shop was a cover for a worldwide smuggling ring - the story quickly reaches its climax, with all the loose ends coming together nicely.

Edwin of the Iron Shoes was Muller's first novel in the Sharon McCone series, which heralded a boom in the mystery fiction market of books featuring female detectives. Muller (b. 1944) continues to add to the series, with the 24th title - The Ever Running Man - being released this year.

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