The Galton Case: A Lew Archer Novel Paperback – Nov 26 1996
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The Galton Case, published in 1959, was Ross Macdonald's breakthrough book. Its predecessors are craftsmanlike, highly literate, hard-boiled detective stories; The Galton Case and most of its successors are literature that happens to inhabit the detective-story form. For Macdonald the man, Galton was the first book in which he explored his deepest personal concerns (he was the child of a broken home who was passed from relative to relative in his youth). For readers, it's the book in which he first perfected the balancing act that became his trademark: a tightly written page-turner that also probes profound themes and frequently rises to something like poetry.
The tale opens with detective Lew Archer visiting the swanky offices of a lawyer acquaintance, who engages him to hunt for a long-missing scion of the rich Galton family. Though the case seems fruitless, Archer begins digging. Soon a seemingly unrelated crime intrudes--but Archer tells us, "I hate coincidences." As he roams California (and, briefly, Nevada) following leads and hunches, he gradually uncovers a long-buried tale of deception, hatred, and the power of illusion. As usual, Macdonald can accomplish more with three lines of dialogue and a simple description than most writers can in three pages. The connection between Archer's two cases finally clicks about three-quarters of the way through the book, and the moving denouement, with its final plot twist, takes place in a hardscrabble Canadian boarding house much like those in which Macdonald spent parts of his childhood. The Galton Case is an exceptionally satisfying read on several levels. --Nicholas H. Allison
Top Customer Reviews
This is possibly his most satisfying story and like most of the other reviewers, I choose to let you discover the story for yourself. If you have read previous MacDonald, you may spot elements of the story before they're completely revealed, but this hardly will diminish your enjoyment of the book. It might even enhance it. There's much more of interest here than just the identity of the murderer. There's a lot of figuring out the essences of the people involved, and they do act consistently.
There is one minor stretch of credibility in this particular book, one rather unlikely coincidence, but it's a realistic coincidence, one which fits nicely as one of the coincidences that do occur in real life and does not seem like the author's contrivance.
I don't think it makes any appreciable difference whether or not you've read any other MacDonald works or not. This will read well as the first one or the later one.
One of the great mystery novels, for sure.
The Galton Case has a realistic, painful and angry intensity not present in any other Archer novels I've read--perhaps because MacDonald had put more of his life and sorrows into this book than in any other; into the examination of how the sins of the fathers ruin their sons' lives. For MacDonald every family is riddled with moral cancer: skeletons can never be fully shoved into the closet, especially because Archer, relentless and haunted, will bring them back to life.
It's true that MacDonald basically wrote the same work throughout most of his novels. All work out the same issues of buried identity, familial guilt and moral corrpution. This is not an entirely damning fact--it just means that Archer was a limited, minor artist (like Hammett and Chandler) and that he was fixated with a primal story that he retold continually. "The Galton Case" may be the finest version of that story--the most wounding, convincing and saddening.
As a stylist, MacDonald lacks Hammett's laconic grace and Chandler's brilliant flamboyance. Parts of this book can be awkward, while other parts display figurative language of uncommon acuteness and insight. MacDonald chose to work with a sparer, elegantly economic and less sensationalistic style--his sentences literally work up a quiet storm.
As a storyteller MacDonald is deeper, more human and more interesting than either Hammett or Chandler--because he is genuinely intersted in other people besides his detective.Read more ›
In The Galton Case, Archer is hired to look for Anthony Galton, who disappeared twenty years earlier. Now Galton's dying mother wants to be reconciled with him & bequeath him her considerable fortune. Archer's suspicions are raised when all the pieces of the mystery fall into place a little to quickly.
With a lone wolf investigator, wanton women, mobsters, millions, beatings & shootings, The Galton Case has all the elements of a classic noir mystery.
Most recent customer reviews
Macdonald may be a victim of modern times. The novel works as a period piece.Published 10 months ago by Marc Buchanan
I have come to depend on MacDonald's mysteries as ideal beach reads and this one lives up to that expectation every bit. Read morePublished on April 4 2000 by Christina Wolf
This was the third book I have read by Ross MacDonald and I think they are all excellent. This book is simply a great classic mystery, complete with well-developed characters,... Read morePublished on Dec 8 1999 by Roger Lee
It took me over a year to pick up a Archer mystery. Now, lucky me I have to read them all. MacDonald's works are like a out of control train ride. Read morePublished on Jan. 6 1999