Although I enjoyed this book, I would not say it was the best mystery I have ever read. The plot is good and the tension is held, but I agree with the other reviewer that it is difficult to identify with the main characters, who all seem a bit selfish. There is also a "secret" which is held throughout the book, but this proves to be more irritating than gripping. That said, the book is well written, the plot kept me interested and I certainly did not guess the ending, which was in no way predictable. Marcia Muller is a good writer, but unfortunately this is not one of her best. Still, I would say it is still worth reading.
Cape Perdido is an interesting variation on a familiar mystery theme -- the lone detective against the town and its secrets. In Cape Perdido, a small town's residents find their livelihoods at risk when an out-of-state firm bids to drain the Perdido River and ship the water off to Southern California in large water bags. What little money comes into the town is from tourists . . . who are drawn by the river and the nearby shore.
It's the 11th hour and New York consultants have been brought in to organize a defense by building on the local resistance efforts. But the consultants don't seem to be on the same page. The local resisters are also in conflict with one another. What they have in common is a disregard for Timothy McNear who is facilitating the water grab . . . after having shut down the town's mill just a few years earlier. But McNear and several of the resisters seem to have a hidden mystery in common. What are they hiding?
As the story evolves, you will find yourself puzzled by what's going on and why . . . but not any more puzzled than any of several of the characters are. Ms. Muller provides a variety of narrators and points of view to show just how confusing the situation really is. She holds the key back until right before the end . . . in a telltale clue that suddenly ties all the ribbons together.
For me, the book worked quite well as a story and as a mystery. My main complaint against the book was that I didn't find myself feeling very sympathetic to any of the characters until near the end. Without that sympathetic connection, the plot details remained details . . . rather than a compelling story that required resolution for the "good" guys and gals.
You would think that a story about a corporation wanting to steal water rights would create automatic sympathy towards those who would lose benefits from having the water. It probably says more about how unsympathetic these characters are to say that such opposition didn't automatically make the potential "victims" attractive.
I am a fan of the Sharon McCone novels but find that Ms. Muller has painted herself into a story line that involves too many characters to be easy to enjoy. I'm sure she relishes operating with more freedom, and I think she used that unaccustomed freedom well in Cape Perdido. If she had created some more sympathetic characters, I would have delighted in the book.