Sunday, May 31, 2009
Book Report: Black Money by Ross MacDonald (1961)
When it comes down to it, of all the authors in the classical hardboiled canon, I will have read and reread Ross MacDonald's Lew Archer novels the most. This comes because of an intersection of the availability of MacDonald's work, mostly in Book Club Format, at book fairs coupled with my desire to reread the books (and only reading the books on my to-read shelves, natch). You cannot find many Chandler books out there, for example, so I don't tend to pick them up on impulse and put them on my to-read shelves. As you know, I got lucky last year and re-read The Long Goodbye.

As you might know if you've paid attention lo these six plus years, I grew up reading the hardboiled fiction, and when I revisit it, I am struck anew again about how I prefer them to the modern crime genre like Sandford or (shudder) Pearson. The writing is punchier, and although the plots are convoluted, you get the sense throughout that the private eye is making progress throughout the book. It seems a lot of modern stuff involves some thrashing around, trying to provoke the bad guy, and then a sudden revelation at the climax.

In this book, Archer is hired to investigate the man who stole a rich young man's fiance. The thief, purportedly a French nobleman in exile from the De Gaulle regime, isn't who he says he is. The resulting unraveling touches on mobsters, infidelity, and murder in the enclave of an upper class California town.

Definitely recommended. I'll probably read this again someday when I find it for a buck again.

Books mentioned in this review:

Current mystery novelists like Sandford and Pearson may have gotten that way because of TV crime programs: each week LAW & ORDER in its various incarnations has its mystery, winds it up, and next week it's a new one.Same with Lucas Davenport and his brethren. Some like Mike Connelly and Patricia Cornwell carry their serial killers forward from novel to novel. Just like TV!

The keenest example, of course, is Robert B. Parker, whose books before 1986 were sort of akin to the old hardboiled novels and whose novels since he worked on a television series based on the books are now like reformatted television scripts.

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