ROSS MACDONALD – Black Money. Lew Archer #14. Alfred A. Knopf, hardcover, 1966. Reprinted many times, including: Bantam F3320, paperback, 1967. Warner, paperback, August 1990. Contained in Ross Macdonald: Four Late Novels (The Library of America, hardcover, 2017).

   It’s good to see Lew Archer back in print [as of 1990]. There were quite a few of his books that I never read when they first came out, although I think I have them all, mostly in book club editions. Given the opportunity to catch up on them now [that Warner has begun reprinting them], I realize I’d forgotten how little of Archer himself gets into these books, with no real information on his life at all, or even his personal thoughts.

   He’s hired here to investigate the new man in Ginny Fallon’s life, with his client the rich young man who always thought he’d marry her, but who now sees her being stolen away by a phony Frenchman (he thinks) with the savoir faire he never had, and never will. Ginny’s father was a suicide victim seven years before, and of course it’s connected.

   The other thing I’d also forgotten is Macdonald’s overwhelming reliance on similes, metaphors and other literary comparisons to describe almost everything. It’s not done here to the point of self-parody yet, but it seems awfully close at times. As for the mystery itself, it is (as always) chilling, deep and complex. Macdonald does not rely on coincidence as a plot device, and the roots of the crimes in this book are (as always) twisted and embedded far back into the past.

FOOTNOTE:   Some of Macdonald’s similes work really well, some don’t. One that didn’t, at least for me, comes from page 8: “The white and purple flowers on the brush gave out a smell like the slow breath of sunlight.” It sounds great, but what does it mean? On the other hand, here’s a quote from page 178 which might serve as Archer’s family motto: “Never sleep with anyone whose troubles are worse than your own.” (This one I like.)

— Reprinted from Mystery*File #23,, July 1990.