If any writer can be said to have inherited the mantel of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, it was Ross Macdonald. Between the late 1940s and his death in 1983, he gave the American crime novel a psychological depth and moral complexity that his predecessors had only hinted at. And in the character of Lew Archer, Macdonald redefined the private eye as a roving conscience who walks the treacherous frontier between criminal guilt and human sin.
A hard-faced woman clad in a blue mink stole and dripping with diamonds hires Lew Archer to track down her former maid, who she claims has stolen her jewelry. Archer can tell he’s being fed a line, but curiosity gets the better of him and he accepts the case. He tracks the wayward maid to a ramshackle motel in a seedy, run-down small town, but finds her dead in her tiny room, with her throat slit from ear to ear. Archer digs deeper into the case and discovers a web of deceit and intrigue, with crazed number-runners from Detroit, gorgeous triple-crossing molls, and a golden-boy shipping heir who’s gone mysteriously missing.
“Macdonald’s spare, controlled narration, built for action and speed, conveys the world through which the action moves and gives it meaning, [bringing] scene and character, however swiftly, before the eye without a blur.” (Eudora Welty, New York Times Book Review)
“Archer-Macdonald are working together at their peak, piecing together a most modern American tragedy, making literature out of the thriller form, gazing more clearly [than] ever into the future as it rolls through the smog.” (Newsweek)
“Ross Macdonald must be ranked high amongst American thriller-writers.” (Times Literary Supplement)
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A classic that still works
Everything one could hope for in a Gumshoe Noir.
- Chris T