He leaned forward in the creaking armchair. “What do you think of the place she’s working in? It’s a pretty low-down dive, isn’t it?”
“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.