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The Underground Man by Ross Macdonald

The Underground Man

by Ross Macdonald

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5261129,246 (3.81)18



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Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
Review: The Underground Man by Ross MacDonald.

The story started off with a domestic kidnapping that led to many events as stealing a beautiful sail boat and not knowing how to maneuver it over the ocean and ended breaking up in the ocean almost taking three lives with it. Also the author entwined a natural disaster, a dreadful wildfire in the California hills around members of the family’s home he was investigating. A recent murder was discovered that belong to the same family causing more work for Lew Archer to untangle. Archer’s theory involved malicious relationships of the family members and he needed to prevent any more impending tragedies. The story has some twist and turns that places Archer in situations of danger. The land and ocean becomes characters because there used to carry the story through some rough adventures throughout this family in the past and the future.

Archer was more or less pulled into a situation he was not seeking when he went outside one morning to feed some peanuts to a few blue jays and met a young boy and his mother.
Archer also got to meet the estranged husband when he came to pick up his son. Somehow, Archer gets involved into a domestic quarrel, a series of adulteries, a broken marriage, petty crimes, frauds, and a murder going back three generations. The story spools around southern California in the 60’s. Being a detective, Archer realizes that powerful families have dark history secrets that sadly repeat themselves over and over again.

This was a good mystery and I really enjoyed the story. I felt like I was almost reading a Sherlock Holmes book. The detective, Lew Archer kept asking questions in the investigation that he already surmised and nonchalantly kept his cool and moved on. I was the reader and he never clued me in! He moved within the story like he didn’t know anything and he wasn’t predictable but he knew where he was going and who the next person he was going to question. However, as I was reading I didn’t make a connection with his way of thinking and he baffled me because he never gave anything away. He kept everything locked away in his mine until he was ready to give the reader a little bit more to keep the story going. I could tell he was leading up too something but really didn’t catch on until I was almost at the end of the book and started putting it all together. Ross MacDonald was clever enough to have his character hold back to entice the reader. I enjoyed the way the story unraveled and it kept me intrigued to the end. ( )
  Juan-banjo | Jan 18, 2017 |
"A little mayhem," from another review, captures this book's flavor. Three murders, over a dozen characters, almost half of them suspects. It's a page turner, but the seemingly never ending questioning of witnesses and suspects and family members and friends made me turn the pages a little faster toward the end. ( )
  jklavanian | Nov 28, 2016 |
Just when Ross Macdonald looked like he might be too tied to an academic/intellectual-classical-Greek theme for each of his mysteries, he moves away and produces this story of family intrigue. Regardless of the story line, his writing is a pleasure to read. It is among the best mysteries he produced. ( )
  DinoReader | Aug 21, 2014 |
Lew Archer is feeding the birds at his apartment one morning when he meets a little boy named Ronny, who is staying in the same building along with his mother. The boy's father arrives unexpectedly and Archer becomes entangled in an unpleasant domestic scene. This chance encounter leads Archer into a mess of long-held secrets and connections, with kidnapping and murder forming part of the web. And just to make things more difficult, a wildfire has erupted in the Santa Teresa area that could either burn away the untruths or destroy the truth entirely…

This was a really absorbing story. It put me in mind of Macdonald's The Galton Case, which also deals in family secrets. (Come to think of it, most of Archer's cases involve long-held secrets in some way.) This one had a different twist in that a little boy was involved and put in danger; usually the main focus of an Archer story is an imperilled woman. The fire was also a novel plot element and reflected part of the reality of life in southern California. I got a bit lost somewhere in the latter half of the book but read on, figuring that everything would be explained in the end, and it was. The only slightly off note was a throwaway remark about poisoned pelicans on the coast. My initial reaction was "Oh great, a token environmental message," but Archer was able to rescue it somewhat later on (it may be a spoiler to mention the statement in detail or how he rescued it).

I would recommend this if you've already read Macdonald; it would make a good second Archer if you are not particular about reading in order. Or if you liked The Galton Case, this one might appeal to you as well. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Aug 24, 2013 |
When Lew Archer witnesses the abduction of a boy he is drawn into a tortuously complex case of murder and blackmail hidden amongst the wealthiest families of small town California.

I rarely like a Noir book for the plot but I enjoyed the way this twisted tale unfurled which, like the forest fire it’s set against, it rapidly breaks out in all directions and tries to consume all. Although, it does this in sedately fashion; one of the key joys is the pacing, the steady unfurling of what could easily be a torrid soap opera of a plot. Affairs and loveless marriages, blackmail, murder and rape, mental illness are all slowly unearthed but Lew's humane pragmatism grounds it all whilst ramping up the tension. It is a tale with a strong theme as one generations sins hit the next and then next and then?

It's hard to pick out a negative part, it is what it is after all and has aged well. This book does sit towards the end of a series but that didn't negatively impact the tale and I am intrigued to try an early one and see how the character starts out. ( )
  clfisha | Oct 22, 2012 |
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A rattle of leaves woke me some time before dawn.
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Book description
Lew ARcher wouldn't touch a case like this for money. He took it because he was a little in love with a lady. Her husband had run off with their six-year-old son - and a sexy teen-aged blond.

Now the trio had disappeared, and a forest fire was raging through the California Canyon where they were last seen. [When ISN'T there a forest fire somewhere in California?] 
To Archer even the sky looked scorched, but the taste of ashes in his mouth came from seeing the murdered man lying in the still warm ground ... and feeling the cold of a .38 pressed against his head.


The pang of fear I felt for the boy had become a nagging ache. I went into my bathroom and looked at my face as if i could somehow read hiis future there. But all I could read was my own past, in the marks of erosion under my eyes, the mica glints of white and gray in my twenty-four-hour beard.

I shaved and put on a clean shirt and stasrted downstairs again. Halfway down I paused and leaned on the handrail and told myself that I was descending into trouble: a pretty young woman with a likeable boy and a wandering husband. A hot wind was blowing in my face.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679768084, Paperback)

As a mysterious fire rages through the hills above a privileged town in Southern California, Archer tracks a missing child who may be the pawn in a marital struggle or the victim of a bizarre kidnapping.  What he uncovers amid the ashes is murder—and a trail of motives as combustible as gasoline.  The Underground Man is a detective novel of merciless suspense and tragic depth, with an unfaltering insight into the moral ambiguities at the heart of California's version of the American dream.

If any writer can be said to have inherited the mantle of Dashiell Hammet and Raymond Chandler, it was Ross Macdonald.  Between the late 1940s and his death in 1983, he gave the American crime novel a psychological depth and moral complexity that his predecessors had only hinted at.  And in the character of Lew Archer, Macdonald redefined the private eye as a roving conscience who walks the treacherous frontier between criminal guilt and human sin.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:37 -0400)

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When a chance encounter makes him a witness to the abduction of a child, private detective Lew Archer can't help but be drawn into the case, pursuing a trail that leads all too quickly to murder. While forest fires rage in the hills around Los Angeles, threatening the homes of some of the city's wealthiest families, Archer unearths a hidden history of failed marriages, runaway children, and a man's life consumed by a search for the father who abandoned him. Ross Macdonald's "Lew Archer" mysteries rewrote the conventions of the detective novel with their credible, humane hero, and with Macdonald's insight and moral complexity won new literary respectability for the hardboiled genre previously pioneered by Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. They have also received praise from such celebrated writers as William Goldman, Jonathan Kellerman, Eudora Welty and Elmore Leonard.… (more)

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An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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