A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
A young man asks detective Lew Archer to find his missing wife, who bolted the day after the wedding. This is no problem at all for Archer. She’s found attending college under a pseudonym and the couple are brought back together right away. Trouble is the runaway bride has blood on her hands at the reunion, literally. There’s a secret murder from her past, and a murdered professor in her present with an incriminating bloody hand-print at the scene to boot.
What follows is one of the most compellingly convoluted mystery plots ever. Archer is forced to connect a seemingly unrelated string of crimes that span 3 decades in order to exonerate the bride and others. The Chill is simply brilliant noir. On par with Chandler or Ellroy, and frankly better than Hammett.
It’s also a pretty good place to start Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer books, even if it is right smack in the middle of the series. You get a good sense of Archer’s character, Macdonald’s stylish narrative flow, and probably the best example of his detailed plots. I’d also suggest The Galton Case for a similar distillation of Macdonald’s style, and maybe a little bit more of Archer as a character.
Review by Matthew