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The Goodbye Look [Paperback]

Ross Macdonald

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Book Description

Dec 5 2000 Vintage Crime/Black Lizard
In The Goodbye Look, Lew Archer is hired to investigate a burglary at the mission-style mansion of Irene and Larry Chalmers. The prime suspect, their son Nick, has a talent for disappearing, and the Chalmerses are a family with money and memories to burn. As Archer zeros in on Nick, he discovers a troubled blonde, a stash of wartime letters, a mysterious hobo. Then a stiff turns up in a car on an empty beach. And Nick turns up with a Colt .45. In The Goodbye Look, Ross Macdonald delves into the world of the rich and the troubled and reveals that the past has a deadly way of catching up to the present.

If any writer can be said to have inherited the mantle of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, it is Ross Macdonald. Between the late 1940s and his death in 1983, he gave the American crime novel a psychological depth and moral complexity that his pre-decessors had only hinted at. And in the character of Lew Archer, Macdonald redefined the private eye as a roving conscience who walks the treacherous frontier between criminal guilt and human sin.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (Dec 5 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375708650
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375708657
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 13 x 1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 227 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #25,425 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Library Journal

This 1969 Lew Archer outing finds the PI investigating a burglary of a house belonging to a wealthy family. As Archer does his job, however, it seems that the robbery is the least of these people's troubles.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"The American private eye, immortalized by Hammett, refined by Chandler, brought to its zenith by Macdonald." --The New York Times Book Review

"Another of Mr. Macdonald's somber celebrations of the evil that lurks in men's souls. . .as elaborately designed as the plot of any three-volume Victorian novel." --The Christian Science Monitor

"It was not just that Ross Macdonald taught us how to write; he did something more, he taught us how to read, and how to think about life, and maybe, in some small, but mattering way, how to live . . . . I owe him." -Robert B. Parker                                                      

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An artfully written but overly convoluted narrative. June 17 2005
By Michael G. - Published on
To refer to Nick Chalmers of Pacific Point, California as a troubled young man would be completely understating the case. The truth is he's guilt ridden to the point of being suicidal.

Private eye Lew Archer, whose newest client is Nick's mother Irene, is determined to unravel the complex web of events that has brought Nick to the wretched mental state in which he now finds himself.

The Goodbye Look serves up plenty of typical Ross Macdonald fare as the narrative, an exceedingly complex one even by Macdonald's standards, unfolds. Three families, the Chalmers, the Truttwells and the Swains are plagued by a series of intertwined tragedies that have played out over 25 years and more.

As Archer traverses much of the southern California landscape steadfastly trying to sort out this sordid saga of murder, larceny, infidelity, parental malfeasance and hidden identity, the reader is drawn into Macdonald's world. A world where the sins of the father's are invariably visited upon the children and one's destiny is determined before one is old enough to have any say in the matter.

Enhancing this book's interest quotient is the fact that Archer himself becomes an active participant in the ongoing soap opera when he engages in sex with a married woman. Not just any married woman, but one who has, as it turns out, played a key role in the mystery Archer seeks to solve.

As is the case in most Lew Archer novels, the dialogue and descriptive prose are first rate. However, The Goodbye Look is not quite as strong as some of Macdonald's other work because the plot is so twisted that its unravelling raises as many questions as it answers. Readers, particularly those who are already Ross Macdonald fans, will enjoy certain aspects of this book. For example, a scene where clues are found by viewing a decades old home movie is particularly well written. But overall, The Goodbye Look ranks a notch or two below the author's best work.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best May 26 2010
By S. Lewis - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Goodbye Look is one of the best Lew Archer novels by Ross MacDonald. Archer is called to investigate the theft of an antique jewelry box owned by the wealthy Chalmers family. Suspicion quickly falls on the only child, son Nick.

This is one of the three or four best in the Lew Archer series, which is another way of saying that it is one of the ten or so best detective stories ever published. It is also maybe the most complicated of the Archers. There are many characters. I strongly recommend you write them down as they appear. Draw a graph showing who is related to who. For that reason, I do not recommend this as the first Archer novel to read.

The final resolution is not quite what I was hoping. However, it is certainly good and makes sense.

We have here many of the recurring themes that are in all but the earliest Archer novels: The private mental hospital. The strange disappearance of someone a generation earlier, probably murdered. Wealthy people who got that way at the ultimate expense of their children.

The only thing this one is missing relative to some of other later novels in the Archer canon is a lot of the incredible off hand descriptions and musings. Ross MacDonald was one of the finest writers - forget detective - that this nation has ever produced. His Archer novels are full of insights and descriptions of amazing power that resonate in the mind. I didn't find quite so many in this one.

- henry
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Macdonald offers solid fare in this Archer mystery. July 13 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Lew Archer works for the sleaziest rich people in California on a consistent basis. Their concealed pasts go back 20 years, sometimes longer, and in the process of the plot's unravelling several dead bodies usually turn up (including fresh ones). In this novel, his first national bestseller in 1969, two broken families have intertwined tragic pasts that Archer ends up disclosing. By the end they're not happier, but have faced the ugly truth about themselves. This book is compact, unified in time and setting, and has nice plot twists. Macdonald has been criticized for rewriting the same book, and there is a consistency of character and milieu in his work. But hey, if it's not broke... The end is a lift from Macdonald's The Galton Case, widely regarded as his best book. When you've read that one--and if there's a better PI novel written since WWII I don't know of it--try this one. It's a good read by a good writer.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Mystery Masterpiece Feb. 10 2012
By George Duncan - Published on
MacDonald had the incredible ability of creating almost bizantine plots but making them seem logical and coherent. Many of his books reach into the past for a solution to the mystery and this one does too. MacDonald was at his peak when he wrote this novel and it shows all of his strength - excellent writing, great characterization, the aforementioned detailed plots, etc. If you start this novel you have to finish it. All the clues are there, MacDonald doesn't cheat the reader, but it takes a genuis to figure them out.
One of the finest mystery novels of the 20th century.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MacDonald's greatest book Jan. 16 2012
By NY Film - Published on
I was more than a little surprised to see that other Ross MacDonald books had glowing reviews on Amazon, but The Goodbye Look had only a handful of reviews, none of them entirely enthusiastic.

The surprise is because The Goodbye Look is MacDonald's masterpiece, and probably one of the half-dozen greatest mystery novels of the twentieth century. It's that good. It would take a real full-length review to do justice to it, but MacDonald's pet theme of the sins of the rich and the sins of older generations coming home to roost in the present was never more memorably or elegantly presented than it is here. The plot is possibly the most complex ever attempted by an American crime writer (you might actually want to take notes or create a diagram to keep track of everything, it's that complicated) but it's complicated for a purpose.

The links between characters, the family relationships, the connection to past events, the crimes of decages ago being felt now by younger generations, this is what MacDonald's story is about, and the ending is one of his best. You literally close the book and feel as if have just witnessed a master conductor weaving all these characters and strands of plot together into an intense, beautifully entangle web of sin, jealousies, deceptions and the all-corrupting influence of money.

I can't praise this book enough.

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