Sampson is described as a very eccentric millionaire, who has given away a mountain retreat to a "holy man" and dabbles in astrology. The main characters in this book, other than Archer, are Sampson's wife, his daughter, and his pilot. Sampson's lawyer, Bert Graves, is an old friend of Archer's. Once Archer starts his investigation, a lot of seamy characters that were associated with Sampson are unearthed. There are very few appealing characters in this book, but they were interesting.
The Ivory Grin. I think that is because the plot was less convoluted and I could understand Archer's motivation throughout. It might also help a bit that Santa Teresa is a fictionalized version of Santa Barbara, California. Santa Barbara in 1949, but still recognizably Santa Barbara.
Archer started out as a policeman and became disenchanted.
When I went into police work in 1935, I believed that evil was a quality some people were born with, like a harelip. A cop's job was to find those people and put them away. But evil isn't so simple. Everybody has it in him, and whether it comes out in his actions depends on a number of things. Environment, opportunity, economic pressure, a piece of bad luck, a wrong friend.Ross Macdonald is well known for his imagery. Sometimes he goes overboard in my opinion, but most readers love it.
A cab driver offers to drop him at The Wild Piano in West Hollywood:
“Why not?” I said. “The night is young.” I was lying. The night was old and chilly, with a slow heartbeat. The tires whined like starved cats on the fog-sprinkled black-top. The neon along the strip glared with insomnia.And Archer aims a lot of criticism at women in this book. An example:
It seemed to me then that evil was a female quality, a poison that women secreted and transmitted to men like disease.It will be interesting as I read later books in the series to see if his opinion of women softens.
- A review at The Game's Afoot
- This article at detnovel.com describes both Macdonald’s life and the books he wrote.
Publisher: Vintage Books, 1998 (orig. pub. 1949)
Length: 245 pages
Format: trade paperback
Series: Lew Archer novels, #1
Setting: Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, California and surrounding areas
Source: purchased my copy