POINT DECEPTION
Marcia Muller


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Warner Books, July 2001
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood

Detective Thriller

To writer Guy Newberry, the calamity in the history of small town Signal Port looks like another best seller for him. The prospect of laying bare the secrets of the inhabitants of unhappy Signal Port, and scrutinizing their personal causes and effects in a book, is irresistible. Unfortunately for his plans, the townspeople arenít fooled about his intentions. Most of Signal Portís residents set out to stonewall him. Guy wonders, what does their resistance have to do with the massacre of a group of artist drifters thirteen years ago in nearby Cascada Canyon?

Deputy Rhoda Swift is one of the few involved in those old murders who feels a need for the truth. She took the blame for the initial mishandling of the case, and the weight of it nearly sank her. Now, when she has rebuilt her life to the point where it will probably stay together as long as she doesnít breathe hard, she needs a foundation of facts, not fears.

As the anniversary of the massacre approaches, a blonde young woman is found dead after being stalled for hours with a broken down car on precipitous Highway One. Many drivers passed her by, only to ask themselves later, "Why didnít I help?" A wayward wife disappears, and townspeople casually assume she is shacking up with some man or other. Next a motherly woman who became mentally unstable following the massacre also disappears. Could her former friends have helped her if they tried harder? Guy recognizes all these events and attitudes as signs of an unhealthy town, but are they directly related to the Cascada Canyon deaths?

Teamed together, Guy and Rhoda have a mystery to solve, but they also have destructive secrets of their own that they must overcome. The only way to achieve these things is for both of them to gradually build or repair bonds with people within the town and outside of it. In this way the entire community becomes involved in clearing up the murders that have poisoned all their lives ever since they happened.

The reader of POINT DECEPTION will have made the journey with Guy and Rhoda. This will not surprise those who are familiar with Marcia Mullerís smooth entry into the heads of her main characters. When a Muller character worries, we worry. When her character sympathizes, we sympathize. We walk when they walk, we see the same scenery as they do, we nerve ourselves up to dashing into trouble right along with them. Muller enables the reader to inhabit a character and a setting as few writers can do. In the case of POINT DECEPTION, I still see the Signal Port fog a day after finishing the book.

A year ago when I reviewed LISTEN TO THE SILENCE, Marcia Mullerís writing was new to me. Now I would scheme, cheat or connive to get my hands on a Sharon McCone mystery I havenít read. Fortunately that isnít necessary, because Mullerís annual residence on the best seller lists guarantees large print runs. POINT DECEPTION is not a Sharon McCone mystery, as you will have gathered, and the main characters do not have Sharonís lovable quality, but they do eventually win a readerís sympathy, and they are completely believable.

POINT DECEPTION does not read to me like the beginning of a mystery series. Guy, Rhoda, and Signal Port all had journeys to make, and they have made them. To turn now to mystery puzzles would sacrifice the depth that appears to have been the authorís motivation for writing the story. Personally I canít conceive of a series that could have the same emotional drive as this single novel. The story feels like it has been building up pressure in the authorís mind for a long time, and finally she has allowed it out. I would be willing to wait more years to read another single novel that has built up the same pressure inside Marcia Mullerís mind.

Aug 2001 Review Originally Published on the Independent Reviews Site

 

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