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Mystery Monday Review – The Moving Target

The Moving Target by Ross Macdonald

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

This is the first Lew Archer mystery –MacDonald named him after Miles Archer, Sam Spade’s murdered partner in The Maltese Falcon. Published in 1949, WWII hangs heavy over the story.

A distraught wife hires private detective Archer to search for her missing husband. It seems an almost inconsequential case, a matter that occurs in Archer’s agency every day. Nothing indicates crime is involved until we get into kidnapping and human trafficking in a case that will cost six lives.

Ross Macdonald is mentioned in the same breath as Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler and is considered one of the greats of 20th century American crime fiction. He took the classic whodunit thriller to a different level by exploring the question of the social and psychological “why” and influenced the hardboiled genre in the long term.

For instance, in this one, echoing Simenon’s view that given the right combination of interior and exterior pressures, anybody is capable of anything, Archer explains that war’s undermining of certainties, money and social pressures, opportunity or its lack, bad luck, and the wrong crowd cause good people to make mistakes that attract the attention of the law. For others who are just bad to the bone, “Money is just a peg people hang their evil on.”

This was his fifth novel, and so there are flaws. Some spots are slow. Other parts are over-written, which made Raymond Chandler mock the writing as pretentious (talk about the pot … ). Macdonald later learned to restrain the “fine writing” and he later outpaced Chandler, Cain, and Hammet, especially in the Lew Archer novels.

 

 

 

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