Sunday, September 30, 2012

Black Money (Ross Macdonald, 1966)

It starts slowly, in a classic style. Archer is hired by jealous high society youngster to dig up some dirt on mysterious Frenchman aristocrat to whose charms and influence his former fiance had succumbed. But of course things are not simple and sinister past soon starts to catch up with the present in the idyllic southern California. Skeletons crawl out of the closets and all the usual ingredients will come to life: fucked up families, sexual repressions, greed, Las Vegas gangsters (btw Black Money is a term for money laundry/tax evasion in casinos), messed-up academics types and so on.

Story soon gets pretty convoluted (as it's supposed to) with some cool twists but at the same time it is really easy to follow. And there's just enough of the action that intriguing mystery is perfectly balanced with thriller. Ending is cool, filled with emotions and some moral dilemmas. Far from a simple matter of whodunit.

Characters are never simple black/white, good/bad and they are described to perfection, especially introductions are hilarious. I really liked the old man and our villain/main suspect but star here is undoubtedly our favorite P.I. This was his 13th appearance and by now his persona is shaped and polished to the perfection. He's tough, smart, witty, cynical and not too sentimental. Just tired of all the dirt he'd dug out: "It was moral hardship for me to walk away from an unclosed case. … I think in my nighttime loneliness I’d fathered imaginary son, a poor fat foolish son who ate his sorrow instead of drinking it."

It's a total masterpiece. Not so much for the complex and clever plotting but mostly for its execution. So elegant, natural and effortless. Stuff like this separates crime novels from simple mystery pulps and masters from mediocre authors. Simply flawless and mandatory re-reading!



Lew Archer, P.I.

Montevista, Southern California where "Almost anything can happen here. Almost everything has.It's partly the champagne climate and partly, to be frank, the presence of inordinate amount of money."

Body count: 3

Virginia Fablon; she's the reason for the whole thing to start although she's not playing major role once she's introduced.

Nice, although maybe a bit too arty for my taste.Got nothing really to do with the plot.

None, he's too cool and capable to get knocked out.

Cool lines
I could easily quote half of the novel, these are just a few of really cool ones:

I caught the housekeeper glaring at the highball and the bottle as if they represented everything she hated. She had violent black eyes, and she looked like a good hater.

She didn’t believe me. She looked like a woman who had stopped believing almost everything except the numbers on bills, the price tags on clothes and people.

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