Friday, December 4, 2015

Review of The Instant Enemy by Ross Macdonald (Wm Collins, 1968)

The Sebastian’s have hired P.I. Lew Archer to find their missing teenage daughter, Sandy.  Archer quickly establishes that Sandy has run away with her imbalanced and wayward boyfriend, Davy.  He tracks them down to Davy's apartment, but Sandy refuses to return home.  Shortly after the apartment manager is dead and the two runaways have kidnapped a wealthy businessman at gunpoint.  Archer sets off in pursuit, discovering a rival hunter in the form of a retired cop.  The case seems to be linked to the death of a hobo under the wheels of a freight train, but every time Archer seems to get a handle on what is happening, a new twist emerges.  Moreover, few people seem willing to help him in his quest to track down his quarry.

The Instant Enemy has a little bit of everything going on in it – blackmail, murder, exploitation, deception, kidnap – yet it’s told in a measured, realistic way without descending into a breathlessly thriller.  Indeed, Macdonald’s functional, sparse and clean but engaging prose adds heft to the storytelling – there’s barely a sentence that doesn’t move the story forward.  The real delights of the story though are the pragmatic, no-nonsense and tenacious Lew Archer, an L.A. based P.I., and the convoluted storyline that has more twists than a slinky.  The result is that sometimes it's a little tricky to follow the plot and re-align mentally how the characters and actions inter-relate as each twist occurs.  Nonetheless, it's a superior P.I. tale that gets better and better as it progresses.

1 comment:

Mathew Paust said...

What on Earth would we mystery writers ever do without imbalanced and wayward boyfriends who run off with the daughters of rich families?