The bride of newlywed Alex Kincaid has disappeared and he turns to Lew Archer for help. Who is Lew Archer you might ask? If you don’t know you need to find out. All I’m going to tell you is he’s a Philip Marlow/Sam Spade type working out of the suburbs and without a drinking problem.
Set after the war, this is noir without all the rough edges and more than enough twist, turns and messed up individuals to keep you occupied. Imitation is the best form of flattery and this is imitation with improvements. The missing person case turns into a murder investigation that branches out into four murder investigations and the wrongful murder conviction. Archer has a way of getting involved in trouble but handling problems with a determined resolve.
It is a novel about past mistakes and family. Not family in a good way but the way family really screws you up and how past mistakes can continue to mess with your life.
If you haven’t read Ross MacDonald, The Chill is a great place to start. MacDonald wrote nearly twenty Lew Archer novels. There are moments when Lew is lacking a little of that emotional intensity that you find in Marlow and Spade. What it does mean is the novel is all about the story and where you might lose out in the character you more than make up for in the writing and the plot. It is dizzying and yet all falls into place perfectly. At the end, the resolutions work but are anything but neat. With four murders and a wrongful conviction, neat is the last thing you’d want.