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review 2018-12-03 12:54
Early Lew Archer in fine form
The Drowning Pool - Ross Macdonald

Though this is the third of Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer novels that I’ve read, it’s the first one from the early years of his series. As such it was an especially interesting read, as I could see all of the elements that I’ve come to enjoy at an early stage of their development. Not only did it help me to better understand the formula to his stories that is emerging from my reading of Macdonald’s works, but it also highlighted the differences between the books and how his style changed over the years. This was all on top of my enjoyment of the book itself, of course, in which Archer is asked to investigate a case of blackmail that leads to murder and the unveiling of long-kept family secrets: in short, everything that I’ve come to enjoy in an Archer novel.

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review 2018-11-21 15:55
A revisit or a rehash?
The Blue Hammer - Ross Macdonald

How should one read an author's series? This is a question for which the answer would seem obvious: from beginning to end. Yet while this is certainly true for many series nowadays which are basically one story stretched over multiple volumes (e.g. Harry Potter), there are plenty in which authors use the same characters in a variety of separate tales. Must, for example, Arthur Conan-Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories be read in the order they were written, or can they be read and enjoyed in whatever order the reader encounters them?

To be honest, this is a question I hadn't considered until I finished Ross Macdonald's book. While the final novel in his Lew Archer series, it's only the second one that I haven't read. This didn't inhibit my enjoyment of his story in the least, but when I finished it I wondered if I had read enough of them to form an accurate assessment of its merits. Part of it is that its plot was similar in many ways to that of the first Lew Archer novel I read, The Goodbye Look, with an investigation into the theft of a personal item leading to an unraveling of a family's secrets dating back decades. Fortunately Macdonald was too good of a novelist to simply rehash his earlier book, as events go off in a very different direction and end up in a different place as a result. But was this the premise for all of his novels or just a coincidence that the first two I read just happened to contain a similar premise? It may be a trivial point, but it's one that I need to resolve whether Macdonald was revisiting one of his many premises or whether it was a tired regurgitation by a one-trick pony. I'd like to think that it was the former, and I enjoyed this book even in spite of the repetition of the premise, but I feel that I can't make a final judgment until I have the opportunity to read more of Macdonald's work.

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review 2018-11-11 20:28
Opening up a Pandora's box of secrets
The Goodbye Look - Ross Macdonald

This was my first Ross Macdonald novel, and it's definitely not going to be my last. The plot was amazing, with Macdonald's merciful detective Lew Archer called in to investigate the theft of a gold box and the letters contained. What followed was an intricate tale of decades-old crimes, long-buried secrets, and innocent people caught in between. I finished the book with an appreciation for Macdonald's under-appreciated talent, one that deserves as wide an audience today as it had back in his own life.

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text 2018-11-11 15:43
Reading progress update: I've read 57 out of 186 pages.
The Goodbye Look - Ross Macdonald

Okay, I'm hooked.

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text 2018-11-09 14:58
Branching out
Ross Macdonald: Four Novels of the 1950s: (Library of America #264) - Ross Macdonald,Tom Nolan

A couple of days ago I was working my way through my backlog of TLS issues when I came across Tyler Sage's review of the new Ross Macdonald collection of Lew Archer novels published by the Library of America. Until that moment I had no knowledge of either the author or the character, but reading Sage's description has me thinking that I should branch out.

 

The thing is that, for all of my time spent with books, I end up reading deeply in just a few categories. There's history and biography, and when I read fiction it's almost always science fiction with the occasional literary classic thrown in. When I branch out, such as I did last year by reading C. S. Forester's Hornblower novels, though, I usually find that I'm richer for the experience. Among the genres that I have yet to sample (aside from a few Sherlock Holmes stories) is mystery, though after reading Sage's review I feel inspired to give it a try.

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