Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Ivory Grin by, Ross Macdonald

A hard-faced woman clad in a blue mink stole and dripping with diamonds hires Lew Archer to track down her former maid, who she claims has stolen her jewelry. Archer can tell he's being fed a line, but curiosity gets the better of him and he accepts the case. He tracks the wayward maid to a ramshackle motel in a seedy, run-down small town, but finds her dead in her tiny room, with her throat slit from ear to ear. Archer digs deeper into the case and discovers a web of deceit and intrigue, with crazed number-runners from Detroit, gorgeous triple-crossing molls, and a golden-boy shipping heir who’s gone mysteriously missing.

I like Ross Macdonald. He has the hard, unsentimental characters of Hammett and the lyric turn-of-phrase of Chandler. This isn't supposed to be one of the better Archer novels, but it's still better than most other writers. I'm not sure I understood why the first murder occurred, but as it is with these novels, the first murder leads to another and another and another.

I like this line of Archer describing the night sky after he stumbles upon a house with an obviously deranged man inside:

I looked straight up into its dark blue well, moon-washed and dripping with stars, and wondered what the man at the window was seeing there, or looking for.

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