The Way Some People Die by Ross Macdonald
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
"She lived in a world where people did this or that because they were good or evil. In my world people acted because they had to."
Which is true in my world too.
Ross Macdonald's The Way Some People Die was published in June 1951, which means it is exactly my age, well, I was born one month later. Having read it for the first time over 30 years ago I had to reread it to satisfy my curiosity: does it feel as old as I do? The answer is clearly "No": the book is not much dated, perhaps except for nuances of wording and phrasing in the dialogues, prices (nowadays it would be hard to find a hotel room with a bath for $1.50), and the mention of a spittoon, a gadget that may seem a bit alien to the generally non-smoking Twitter Generation. The important things, like people's motives and behavior have not changed in the slightest in the last 65 years, nor has the drug traffic through Mexico-USA border diminished.
Lew Archer is hired by a Mrs. Lawrence to find her daughter, Galatea (Galley), who has disappeared. Galley, a young woman working as a nurse, was last seen over two months earlier with a sinister looking man, according to a witness. The case takes Archer to Palm Springs, Pacific Point - a fictional city modeled on La Jolla - and San Francisco. More people appear to be missing, several people die, and the drug traffic from Mexico plays the main role in the story.
I do not much like the overly complicated plot: I have never really gotten interested in it. Although sparse and economical the prose does not yet seem to be as stellar as in some later books, for instance in
The Underground Man
, which I recently reread and where even the plot is better constructed. The Way seems average and unremarkable, and that special feeling of reading something extraordinary is absent, except for the magnificent sentence shown in the epigraph - one of my favorite quotes by Ross Macdonald (Kenneth Millar in his private life).
Two and a half stars.
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