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The Goodbye Look Paperback – Dec 5 2000
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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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
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.
One of the finest mystery novels of the 20th century.