Find a Victim: A Lew Archer Novel Paperback – Aug 14 2001
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From Library Journal
Though it doesn't have much of a title, this Lew Archer whodunit finds the gumshoe stopping over in a small town for an inquest. The seemingly quiet community reveals itself to be a hive of incest, corruption, dope dealing, and stolen booze. All in a day's work for a hard-boiled private investigator. This 1954 volume is for all mystery collections.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
“The writing is incisive and perceptive…forceful and fast-past…powerful and personal…a strange and haunting blend.”–The New York Times Book Review
“[Ross Macdonald] carried form and style about as far as they would go, writing classic family tragedies in the guise of private detective mysteries.”–The Guardian
Top Customer Reviews
I suspect this book was pretty hot when it came out, but it's almost a parody of the genre today, sad to say. I can stand about one Ross MacDonald a year, just to give me some perspective on this part of the mystery/suspense scene, and Find a Victim is it for this year.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
“I’m afraid it is.”
“That’s what I told her,” he said. “I told her no young married woman should take a job in a public bar like that. Not with a boss like Kerrigan anyway. But she wouldn’t listen. I’m too old and she’s too young, and we can’t talk to each other. She thinks I’m an old fool. Maybe I am, but I can’t help worrying about her. Was she all right when you saw her?”
I didn’t have to answer. The kettle chirred and began to whistle. MacGowan went into the kitchen. While he made the tea, I tried to figure out what to say to him. He brewed it black and bitter, like my thoughts.
“This is good tea,” was what I finally said.
The fifth Lew Archer novel, published in 1950, is something of a transitional work. On the one hand, it involves the kind of tea-smoking, truck-jacking punks (and the young women who love them) so essential to Manhunt, the pulp digest where Lew Archer made his first appearance. On the other hand, there is a small-town domestic dispute- Kerrigan, Mrs. Kerrigan, the alluring (and missing) Anne Meyer- the kind of theme MacDonald would make his forte. A different kind of shadow world.
The writing is moody. This excerpt may seem too self-consciously "fine" to be first rate, but it does indicate an all too human PI:
...I drove east toward the phantom mountains. When I was a few miles outside the city limits, something broke like a capsule behind my eyes. It leaked darkness through my brain and numbness through my body. I stopped the car on the shoulder of the road. Somewhere in the hills to the southwest, the Cyclops eye of the air beacon still scanned the starless sky. I wished that I was made of steel and powered by electricity. I drove on slowly through the night-filled hills until I came to a tourist camp. I rented a cottage from a bleary-eyed boy and had a bad night’s sleep, wrestling nightmare on a lumpy bed.
Early in the narrative, a truck driver is murdered. As Archer seeks to solve this particular crime, he soon learns of a complex web of betrayal and deceit which binds together a number of Las Cruces' citizens.
This novel is about the seemier side of life. Illicit sex is a recurring theme, as are greed and jealousy.
MacDonald uses a highly descriptive type of prose, much of which is quite artfully written. And there are several distinct subplots which are all tied together at the story's dramatic conclusion. Though I found the narrative to be more convoluted than necessary, I have no trouble recommending Find a Victim to anyone who likes their mysteries hardboiled.
The Lew Archer series dealt with the sins of the past catching up on families and what could happen if people tried to eradicate those past sins.
It is not ultra-violent and there are no scenes in the books that make you wish you hadn't read them (unlike some crime books today). It is simply the best detective fiction ever written.