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Mystery Monday Review – The Instant Enemy

The Instant Enemy by Ross Macdonald

Review by Matt B. (buffalosavage)

Troubled parents call in PI Lew Archer on a runaway daughter case. An additional detail is that the girl and her unstable boyfriend have stolen pop’s shotgun and a few cartridges. Poking around, Archer finds evidence that the weapon has been turned into a sawed-off shotgun. Then a millionaire financier is kidnapped by the young ‘uns. Hey, it’s 1968 in the mystery, so maybe those crazy kids were influenced by the movie Bonnie & Clyde.

The distraught mother of the millionaire offers Archer $100K to get her son back in one piece. As usual, the more interviews Archer conducts, the more tangled the connections among the principals become, which may throw a less than attentive reader. The descriptions are intense and revealing. This, a poor duffer’s stuff:

I could recognize some of the things on sight: a broad-bladed fisherman’s knife to which a few old fish scales were clinging like dry tears, a marriage certificate with deep fold-marks cutting across it, a bundle of letters tied together with a brown shoestring, some rifle bullets and a silver dollar in a net sack, a small miner’s pick, a couple of ancient pipes, an ineffectual-looking rabbit’s foot, some clean folded underwear and socks, a glass ball that filled itself with a miniature snowstorm when you shook it, a peacock feather watching us with its eye, and an eagle’s claw.

Granted, the “dry tears” are over the top, but this gaffe is balanced by the “ineffectual-looking” good luck charm.

All the interview scenes are outstanding, but Macdonald writes brilliantly the interview in which a witness who’s been sitting on something coughs up crucial dope. Macdonald sets an especially rapid pace in this one.




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