The Chill Paperback – Jun 3 1996
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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
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.
It is also the most appropriately titled novel that I have ever encountered. The first time I read this I was lying in the sun beside the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. When I reached the moment when the mystery was solved, a chill literally ran up my spine. One of the truly creepy moments of my life. Hyperbole rules among reviewers here, but this one would get a higher rating if I were allowed.
I have read most of MacDonald novels, despite the fact that I really don't spend much time reading mystery or detective fiction. His earliest books are good, but not great. But about four or five novels into the Lew Archer series MacDonald (in real life Professor Kenneth Millar, and husband of fellow mystery writer Margaret Millar)found his voice and his theme. In all his best books the theme is: the sins of the father shall be visited upon the second and third generations (I didn't check my OT for a more precise quotation). A typical plot from his best novels is as follows: Archer is asked to look into this or that problem (a person has disappeared, has left, is being plagued by someone, etc., etc.). Gradually upon conducting his investigation his role shifts from detective to archaeologist, until he eventually discovers the troubles that he has been asked to look into have causes reaching back ten, twenty, or even fifty years. The seed planted by an act decades earlier has sprouted in the present, destroying those who are otherwise innocent.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
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... Read more
I picked this book up from a friend. My edition was copyrighted in 1963. This is a great pure mystery. Read morePublished on Oct. 25 2002
I picked this book up from a friend. My edition was copyrighted in 1963. This is a great pure mystery. Read morePublished on Oct. 25 2002 by Tina
Moody, creepy, complex, and sad, this is MacDonald's best book. I think its as good as Chandler (and that is very good indeed). Read morePublished on Feb. 12 2002 by Ken Braithwaite
The surprise with this novel was not only the ending, it was MacDonald's way with adjectives and description. Read morePublished on Sept. 12 2001 by E. Tobias
This is one novel that, although devoid of any real action scenes, comes together in a tightly wrapped package that leaves the reader dangling until the very last few pages. Read morePublished on Feb. 9 2001 by horseplaypublishing
Ross Macdonald could flat out write. His style is at times very 'Chandleresque', (he really enjoyed Chandler's books)but he brings something else to this story that even the... Read morePublished on Aug. 24 2000 by John J. Raspanti
Reading Ross MacDonald is a voyage into the past. His work is evocative of bygone eras and landscapes, and even on initial publication there was something decidedly old-fashioned... Read morePublished on Jan. 9 2000
Not a good read. Lacks any suspense or thrills. I know this is supposedly "vintage" but I have read alot of vintage with real character development and thrills both. Read morePublished on Sept. 2 1999