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The Chill [Paperback]

Ross Macdonald
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 3 1996 Vintage Crime/Black Lizard
In The Chill a distraught young man hires Archer to track down his runaway bride. But no sooner has he found Dolly Kincaid than Archer finds himself entangled in two murders, one twenty years old, the other so recent that the blood is still wet. What ensues is a detective novel of nerve-racking suspense, desperately believable characters, and one of the most intricate plots ever spun by an American crime writer.

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"The surprise with which a detective novel concludes should set up tragic vibrations which run backward through the entire structure," wrote Ross Macdonald in his 1981 Self-Portrait. Nowhere in his work does he better demonstrate this principle than in The Chill, first published in 1964. The plot is one of Macdonald's most masterfully constructed. Private detective Lew Archer is engaged to trace a missing spouse, who has vanished--apparently of her own free will--only a day into her honeymoon. Archer begins pulling at the threads of the case, and by page 25 they're already starting to reveal a deeper, darker story involving two murders 20 years apart. As usual, Macdonald's economical prose propels the reader forward from one action-packed scene to another, while the scenes in turn pile up to paint a rich, complex picture of buried memories, anguished relations between parents and children, the arrogance of the rich, and the search for identity. Then, at the end, one of the author's best surprise reversals changes the picture's colors entirely. Even if you're one of those discerning readers who find Macdonald's lesser work superior to most other mystery writing (as does this reviewer), The Chill stands out among his books. --Nicholas H. Allison

From Library Journal

Published in 1965, 1963, and 1950, respectively, this trio feature Macdonald's hard-boiled private detective Lew Archer. The plots involve murder, deceit, blackmail, sex, and all those other goodies that make for great crime stories.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Complicated, tragic puzzle with a hint of daring July 22 2003
Format:Paperback
Noir fiction often has tested barriers and taboos. This Lew Archer novel is in that tradition in that it doesn't break any taboos, but it does hint at it. If THE CHILL were written today, I think it would have been a bit more direct.
As with many Lew Archer cases, this one starts innocently enough with his being hired to find a missing newlywed who's disappeared after an encounter with a mysterious visitor. In a short period of time, he's involved in a murder case, one in which he feels a vague sense of being responsible. There are the usual twists, the usual questions of identity, the interconnection of characters which doesn't at first meet the eye.
MacDonald characters are difficult to pigeonhole into "good" or "bad" categories. The motivations often come from deeply within the psyches of the characters.
The emphasis in this story as well as most in the series is on the puzzle. There are seldom recurring characters in these novels, and little interaction other than investigative betwee Archer and the other characters. And as always, the dark corners of human nature are well probed.
Definitely highly recommended.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Deservedly a classic. March 15 2003
Format:Paperback
Along with Hammett, Cain and Chandler, Ross Macdonald is a pioneer of the literate mystery novel.
In "The Chill" (written in 1963), Lew Archer has a missing persons case that leads to three murders committed over a twenty year period that he must tie together.
There is plenty of action, twists, reversals and suspense throughout...adultery, cons, frame-ups, blackmail.
The plot is complicated and complex; filled with plentiful characters (many with aliases). You have to pay attention and keep score.
The ending is a major surprise.
It is easy to see why it is among the IMBA's "100 Favorite Mysteries of the Century."
Well worth a second read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars great book Oct. 25 2002
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I picked this book up from a friend. My edition was copyrighted in 1963. This is a great pure mystery. Pay close attention to the characters you will be surprised how this book ends. If you love to read a good mystery (who dun it) this is the book for you.
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5.0 out of 5 stars great book Oct. 25 2002
By Tina
Format:Paperback
I picked this book up from a friend. My edition was copyrighted in 1963. This is a great pure mystery. Pay close attention to the characters you will be surprised how this book ends. If you love to read a good mystery (who dun it) this is the book for you.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Chill Aug. 20 2002
Format:Paperback
It's complicated--it may have you flipping back through pages with a furrowed brow in order to get it all straightened out--but it does straighten out nicely. This is a solid, highly recommendable hard-boiled whodunit.
Three murders span twenty years, and Lew Archer must trot around trying to tie them all together. There's a hint of blackmail, a whiff of adultery, a rumour of battery, the stench of a frame-up, but does it really all connect? This book features a host of drunken, disillusioned, and in some cases, dissembling suspects, but who's guilty of what? Who, in fact, is guilty of three murders that span decades?
The answer lies behind one clever trick, which definitely bamboozled me. Before the grand finale, MacDonald puts his hero, Archer, through the somewhat familiar routine of visiting, or bumping into, all the characters, several times over. This spinning-carousel of suspects--one reappearing to provide another piece of the puzzle just as one is spinning out of view--is a bit less like discernible clockwork than in, say, The Blue Hammer. The more of a sense of the unpredictable as a PI gumshoes around town following a line of interviews with puzzle-piece-holders, the better, in my opinion. This novel successfully avoids the "hero talks to this person, which leads to this person, which leads to this person, which leads..." approach, by throwing a few bumps in the road.
Finally, if Archer's inner life is not delved into much in this book, by way of a lot of cynical introspection and bleak shamus philosophizing, I for one am not too disappointed. The result is a quick pace, making this a more streamlined ride than some hard-boiled books, with their various philosophical pit-stops.
In this one, the mystery does say everything you need to know about the people involved...once you review the details.
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5.0 out of 5 stars His best book Feb. 12 2002
Format:Paperback
Moody, creepy, complex, and sad, this is MacDonald's best book. I think its as good as Chandler (and that is very good indeed). This was written in the early 60s when RM was at his peak, and manages probably his best surprise as well as his most memorably creepy denouement. All the Archers from this time are excellent, but this one stands out.
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Format:Paperback
For those of us who keep going back again and again to read
the novels of Ross Macdonald, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell
Hammett, Ernest Hemingway and Peter Matthiessen, this is
without question one of the greatest works of that group.
Once Ross Macdonald (Ken Millar) broke through with the Galton Case, every novel from then on formed one of the great canons of
American literature. The N.Y. Times Book Review had
The Underground Man as its front page review in 1970.
Well-deserved recongnition for a writer at his zenith.
What Conan Doyle was to London in its era, so is Ross Macdonald to
California in its era. A great writer on the edge of a culture.
The Chill stands with the Zebra-Striped Hearse and The
Underground Man alongside The Long Goodbye and The Big
Sleep as American writing at its very best.
To be an American (and a Californian) is to read these
books.
So subtle, so psychological, so empathetic, so hard.
Modern noir --- the epitome of great craftsmanship.
At the top of 5 stars. The very top. One of the proud
novels on the Knopf list.
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