Sunday 12 July 2020



A lot of people would go to a lot of trouble to get their hands on $100,000 in small notes. Kidnapping for instance. And that's how it looks to Lew Archer when he's hired to trace a missing billionaire. But five murders later and with a tightening circle of suspects, $100,000 no longer seems an adequate reason for all that trouble.

"Without in the least abating my admiration for Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler, I should like to venture the heretical suggestion that Ross Macdonald is a better novelist than either of them."
- Anthony Boucher, New York Times Book Review

Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer series of books is highly rated by critics and crime fiction aficianados alike. It's been a series I've wanted to try for a while and one I've ignored for about seven or eight years since hoovering up some of the books. I think I had a stalled effort at reading this one a year ago, before setting it aside. Wrong book, wrong time, but second time around it stuck and I managed to re-start, get past where I stopped before and then enjoy the thing.

Best book ever? No, but I did like it enough to know that the investment made in the other books won't have been wasted.

A missing billionaire and a ransom note and a case for Lew Archer....... a dysfunctional family, love triangles, tension, jealousy, a cult, an investigation, more death along the way and answers.

I read this about a month ago and I'm kind of struggling to remember all the twists and plot points and leads, mis-steps, characters and incidents in the book, which doesn't mean to say I didn't like it. It's more a reflection on my memory and perhaps an indicator that I ought to jot things down as I go along or shortly after if I want to offer some coherent thoughts on my reading (mostly for my own benefit as I look back).

I like older books where there's no reliance on technology to locate people, through either mobile phone triangulations or credit card transactions, where computers take the legwork out of investigations. This one is before my time, but it's the close to the world I grew up in. I think it's a book which has aged well.

Other plus points.... California setting; a decent, likable main character; a cohesive plot which made sense and didn't require any suspension of disbelief, one which isn't overly reliant on incident or action to maintain my interest.

It made a bit of a change from my usual reading and along with some other older books I've recently read - Ed McBain (50s), Sjowall and Wahloo (60s), David Craig aka Bill James (70s) - it's breathed a bit of old new life into my favourite passion.

4 from 5

Ross Macdonald wrote nearly twenty Lew Archer books as well as a few other novels. The Drowning Pool is the second in the series and the next one I'll be reading.

Read - June, 2020
Published - 1949
Page count - 196
Source  - purchased copy
Format - paperback


  1. I always liked the Lew Archer character, Col. And several of the books in this series take place not that far from where I live. So it's easy for me to visualise them. They don't draw everyone in, but I've always thought this was a fine PI series.

    1. Hey there, Margot! Still miss your wonderful/informative blogs. I've largely "dropped out" of the social media scene for awhile now. Taking some time to rest and reflect. Still hoping to get Mac McClellan back on another case soon (he's currently working on one, but I've left him hanging for now). Also hoping to get Dinger, D.I. in print. We shall see. MISS YOU! --Michael

    2. Oops, that should be "Dinger, P.I.", not "D.I." ;-)

    3. Margot, I always enjoy books when I have visited the location. Not too many set around where I live that I've managed to cross paths with. It's a well regarded series and I'm keen to read more.

    4. Michael, Margot is back and blogging! Hurrah!

  2. Ah, so you finally got around to my favorite mystery author! I've read all his books; also own all the Lew Archer series, and some (maybe all?) his pre-Archer works. His wife, Margaret Millar, was also a successful novelist. She actually gained success before her husband (real name: Kenneth Millar). A trivia note: Macdonald named Lew Archer after Sam Spade's partner, Archer. Thanks for covering Ross Macdonald! --Michael

    1. Michael, thanks for stopping by I hope you are well. I have most of the Archer's but not all. Hopefully I really enjoy them as I progress through the series. I knew he was married to Margaret Millar. She's another author I want to read more from.

  3. I have a goal to read all of the Lew Archer books by Ross Macdonald. I started with The Ivory Grin (book 4) then went back to this one and The Drowning Pool. Sometime this summer I will read book 3, The Way Some People Die. It will be interesting to compare them to Raymond Chandler's books.

    1. Tracy, good luck with that common goal. Chandler isn't someone I've read for very many years. I must see what I have.