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In The Chill a distraught young man hires Archer to track down his runaway bride. But no sooner has he found Dolly Kincaid than Archer finds himself entangled in two murders, one twenty years old, the other so recent that the blood is still wet. What ensues is a detective novel of nerve-racking suspense, desperately believable characters, and one of the most intricate plots ever spun by an American crime writer.

288 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1964

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About the author

Ross Macdonald

252 books690 followers
Ross Macdonald is the pseudonym of the American-Canadian writer of crime fiction Kenneth Millar. He is best known for his series of hardboiled novels set in southern California and featuring private detective Lew Archer.

Millar was born in Los Gatos, California, and raised in his parents' native Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, where he started college. When his father abandoned his family unexpectedly, Macdonald lived with his mother and various relatives, moving several times by his sixteenth year. The prominence of broken homes and domestic problems in his fiction has its roots in his youth.

In Canada, he met and married Margaret Sturm (Margaret Millar)in 1938. They had a daughter, Linda, who died in 1970.

He began his career writing stories for pulp magazines. Millar attended the University of Michigan, where he earned a Phi Beta Kappa key and a Ph.D. in literature. While doing graduate study, he completed his first novel, The Dark Tunnel, in 1944. At this time, he wrote under the name John Macdonald, in order to avoid confusion with his wife, who was achieving her own success writing as Margaret Millar. He then changed briefly to John Ross Macdonald before settling on Ross Macdonald, in order to avoid mixups with contemporary John D. MacDonald. After serving at sea as a naval communications officer from 1944 to 1946, he returned to Michigan, where he obtained his Ph.D. degree.

Macdonald's popular detective Lew Archer derives his name from Sam Spade's partner, Miles Archer, and from Lew Wallace, author of Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. Macdonald first introduced the tough but humane private eye in the 1946 short story Find the Woman. A full-length novel, The Moving Target, followed in 1949. This novel (the first in a series of eighteen) would become the basis for the 1966 Paul Newman film Harper. In the early 1950s, he returned to California, settling for some thirty years in Santa Barbara, the area where most of his books were set. The very successful Lew Archer series, including bestsellers The Goodbye Look, The Underground Man, and Sleeping Beauty, concluded with The Blue Hammer in 1976.

Macdonald died of Alzheimer's disease in Santa Barbara, California.

Macdonald is the primary heir to Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler as the master of American hardboiled mysteries. His writing built on the pithy style of his predecessors by adding psychological depth and insights into the motivations of his characters. Macdonald's plots were complicated, and often turned on Archer's unearthing family secrets of his clients and of the criminals who victimized them. Lost or wayward sons and daughters were a theme common to many of the novels. Macdonald deftly combined the two sides of the mystery genre, the "whodunit" and the psychological thriller. Even his regular readers seldom saw a Macdonald denouement coming.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 368 reviews
Profile Image for Bill Kerwin.
Author 1 book81.5k followers
November 16, 2020

Young Alex Kincaid wants Lew Archer to find his wife Dolly, who left in the middle of their honeymoon weekend. It seems a gray-bearded man visited her in their hotel room, and soon after she disappeared. It doesn't take Lew long to find Dolly, but by the time he does she is tangled up in two murders and mired even more deeply in the past.

This is one of Ross Macdonald's best dectective novels—perhaps the finest of all. The plot is extraordinarily complex, but never convoluted. The book is filled with lies and false identities, and, when the full truth is known and the last mask is off—a few pages before the book's end—the result is surprising and yet satisfying too.

The imagery of The Chill is particularly fine. There is the usual Macdonald imagery: the dynamic past, the fragile present, the blighted future, and a superabundance of masks. But to these, The Chill adds some particularly poignant images of flight, as characters strive to soar and instead smash themselves, like birds against a plate glass window.

This is a fine novel and a near-perfect piece of detective fiction. A must-read for all fans of the genre.
Profile Image for Orsodimondo.
2,153 reviews1,692 followers
October 23, 2022

Paul Newman è stato il primo Lew Archer sullo schermo – anche se preferì ribattezzarlo Harper perché credeva nel potere scaramantico di quella H iniziale – in due bei film, il primo nel 1966, “Harper – Detective Story”, il secondo nel 1975, “The Drowning Pool – Detective Harper: acqua alla gola”.

Il titolo originale The Chill non è nulla di che, banalotto e generico: e allora l’editore italiano (Mondadori) s’inventa il titolo Il delitto non invecchia, e così facendo anticipa la nascita dei “cold case”.
Anche se di cold questa storia non ha nulla, tutt’altro, è piuttosto hot, visto che Lew Archer è chiamato a ritrovare una moglie scomparsa il giorno dopo le nozze.

E, ovviamente, lo spunto iniziale è come la scintilla per la miccia: man mano, molto presto, l’incarico di partenza si trasforma in un rebus, quel punto fermo in una spirale, e poi in una vertigine, un delitto si collega a un altro che si collega a un altro ancora, e chi scrive sembra sfidare chi legge a seguire una trama che si arricchisce di colpi di scena e punti interogativi. D’altra parte, possiamo leggere rassicurati: l’eroe di turno, quasi sempre io narrante, sarà in grado di dipanare la matassa.

Brian Keith interpretò il detective in una serie di 6 tv movie nel 1975.

E, naturalmente, i gomitoli diventano ancor più intricati perché siamo in California, ultima frontiera, Eldorado, dove si va per rifarsi una vita, per rompere col proprio passato, cercare avventura e fortuna, cambiando nome, ricostruendosi la storia personale. In questo senso si potrebbe parlare di identità fluide. Per confondere ulteriormente le acque, macDonlad mette in scena anche la nebbia, non solo quella che conosce bene chi frequenta San Francisco (qui però siamo nella California del sud), ma anche quella che mescola e confonde verità e menzogna, moltiplicando le piste, complicando il meccanismo narrativo, che Ross MacDonald e grazie a lui anche Lew Archer sa far girare con estrema precisione dritto fino al finale.

Lew Archer ha la lingua tagliente e la battuta sempre pronta, come nella migliore tradizione avviata da Sam Spade e Philip Marlowe: ma rispetto ai suoi tutto sommato più celebri predecessori, Lew è più umano, più vicino ai suoi comprimari, più capace d’empatia.

Ah, come si sposano bene queste storie su carta di detective privati con la pellicola e lo schermo.

Ross Macdonald, pseudonimo di Kenneth Millar: 1915 – 1983.
Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,559 reviews8,690 followers
September 29, 2021
“Some men spend their lives looking for ways to punish themselves for having been born.”
― Ross Macdonald, The Chill


Ross Macdonald might write Chandleresque noir as good or better than Chandler. Some of the lines from 'The Chill' were so sharp they could cut a day into dark chocolate, bite-sized hours. 'The Chill' had a pretty good twist at the end. The only downside to the novel was it almost needed an overcoat with extra pockets for all the characters. By the end, I needed a small pocket book to keep all femme fatales and dead women straight.

Like most Macdonald novels, the dénouement of the Chill seems to snake into your pants, squirm and bite you before you are quite ready for the book to end. That is one thing about Macdonald: he ties up ALL the snakes at the end.

There is a popular trope (often attributed to Brian Eno) that the Velvet Underground's first album only sold 30,000 copies during its first five years but that “everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.” I think the same thing can be said about Macdonald. He was one of those writers who probably sold less than his talent deserved, but whose influence on the modern-day detective novel is practically unsurpassed. He was a writer's writer, the professor of pulp, the high king of hard-boiled, the prophet of classic myths retold as California crime fiction. He was a god and you bet your ass every single word was a sacred creation.
Profile Image for Scott.
1,748 reviews123 followers
May 31, 2020
"Looking for someone?" - predatory Professor Helen Haggerty
"Just waiting." - Lew Archer, hardboiled private investigator
"For Lefty or Godot? It makes a difference." - Haggerty
"For Lefty Godot. The pitcher." - Archer
"The 'pitcher in the rye'?" - Haggerty
"He prefers bourbon." - Archer
"So do I. You sound anti-intellectual to me, Mr. -- ?" - Haggerty
"Archer. Didn't I pass the test?" - Archer
"It depends on who does the grading." - Haggerty
"I've been thinking maybe I ought to go back to school." - Archer

Another one of the solid noir-like detective novels from the long-running series by Ross MacDonald (a.k.a. Kenneth Millar), this early 60's entry dates from the middle of the run. Private investigator Lew Archer is taking a break from pounding his usual beat in Los Angeles. Instead, he is finishing up one case in a sunny small So-Cal coastal university town when - literally just moments after walking out of a courtroom as a verdict is handed down on his client - he's hired to locate a young runaway bride by her concerned husband. Of course, the matter quickly spirals into a much larger (and hazardous) affair involving assumed or disguised identities, deep family secrets, a large cast of multiple and multi-generational suspects, and good old-fashioned MURDER. While there is a distinct lack of snappy P.I. patter - the knightly Archer has a decent line or two, but the catchy dialogue was more often handled by fellow contemporary 'eyes' like Philip Marlowe and Mike Hammer - the frequently serpentine story and well-drawn characters keep things humming along rather nicely here.
Profile Image for Rob Edmunds.
Author 4 books287 followers
June 8, 2021
This is a really enjoyable detective story from a master of the genre. The pace of the novel is pretty fast and the plot compelling. Macdonald uses a great deal of sharp dialogue throughout. I know there have been a few film adaptations of this series and it's easy to see why. From an entertainment point of view alone it's worthy of a 5 star rating but it's also extremely well written. I certainly intend to read a few other of Lew Archer's investigations!
Profile Image for Jayakrishnan.
488 reviews167 followers
September 29, 2021
She was explaining something to him, something about Achilles and the tortoise. Achilles was chasing the tortoise, it seemed, but according to Zeno he would never catch it. The space between them was divisible into an infinite number of parts; therefore it would take Achilles an infinite period of time to traverse it. By that time the tortoise would be somewhere else.

I walked on to the next corner, sat on a bench at a bus stop, and read in my new book about Heraclitus. All things flow like a river, he said; nothing abides. Parmenides, on the other hand, believed that nothing ever changed, it only seemed to. Both views appealed to me.

I know nothing about philosophy and physics. I looked up the Achilles and Tortoise paradox after I read The Chill. What was the point of sticking such philosophical musings into a crime thriller?

I think Macdonald was trying to make a point about the young and the old circling around each other inflicting spiritual and physical wounds on each other. Generation after generation locked into the same spirit crushing race for money. The old rich spiritually destroying their young. The young waiting for the physical death of the old to inherit wealth. Everyone locked in an unfulfilling incestuous relationship for status and money. I could relate to this because I am an Indian.


How good was this book! Yes, it had too many twists and characters which I do not usually like. But the ending made it all worth it. It all starts with a young man approaching Lew Archer to find his runaway bride. The young man’s innocence and sincerity impresses Archer who discovers that the bride is a victim of bad parenting, ghoulish jealousies and machinations of the old rich. Macdonald has this obsession about young people trying to escape their roots but the old keeping them chained. It is a recurring theme in all the Macdonald novels that I have read so far.

Macdonald also seems to not so subtly emphasize the importance of mental health for the young through his treatment of Dolly Kincaid's (the bride who runs away) character. Macdonald's own daughter ran away when she was a teenager and though he was able to find her, she died early, leaving Macdonald and his wife Margaret Millar deeply traumatized. Macdonald does show the flip side of mentally ill people being mollycoddled which leads to a character being put away in jail for ten years.

The Chill is the best Ross Macdonald novel that I have read so far.

The book is filled with memorable similies used to describe even the smallest of characters:

"We found him, a thin spry man wearing a heavy camera like an albatross around his neck. Among the colored beach clothes and bathing costumes, his dark business suit made him look like an undertaker. He was taking some very candid pictures of a middle-aged woman in a Bikini who didn’t belong in one. Her umbilicus glared at the camera like an eyeless socket."

"He looked at his greasy hands with some satisfaction, like a surgeon recalling a series of difficult but successful operations."

I also liked the effortless but clever way in which he invoked California, giving us a sense of the place through brief descriptions, usually at the beginning of each chapter:

The fog was thick outside. Its watery mass overlay Pacific Point and transformed it into a kind of suburb of the sea. I drove out of the motel enclosure into a gray world without perspective, came abruptly to an access ramp, descended onto the freeway where headlights swam in pairs like deep-sea fish, and arrived at a truck stop on the east side without any real sense that I had driven across the city.

"In spite of the housing tracts and the smokeless industries proliferating around it, Pacific Point had kept its identity. Foothill Drive was lined with trees, and had a dusty changeless quality. Settled old families still lived here behind mortised walls that had resisted earthquakes, or hedges that had outlived generations of gardeners."

Glenview Avenue wound through the north side of the north side, in a region of estates so large that it almost qualified as country. Trees lined the road and sometimes met above it. The light that filtered through their turning leaves onto the great lawns was the color of sublimated money.

"Arnie drove me out to the Lakeview Inn, a rambling California Gothic pile which must have dated from the early years of the century. Generations of summer visitors had marched through the lobby and trampled out any old-world charm it might once have had."

"On his way to the courthouse to question McGee, Jerry dropped me at the harbor, where my car had been left sitting. The moon was higher now, and had regained its proper shape and color. Its light converted the yachts in the slips into a ghostly fleet of Flying Dutchmen."

"The towering cypress hedge of 311 masked the house completely from the road. I turned in through the open iron gates with Alex following me. We passed a small white gatehouse with a green door and green shutters, rounded a bend in the driveway, and came in sight of the white Colonial house."
Profile Image for Carla Remy.
837 reviews61 followers
May 12, 2023
This book has a terrific mystery plot. I remembered the ending, the solution to the crime, so it was interesting to read it again. It is unusual for me to remember Ross Macdonald books actually. I have a theory, which may be true, that these Lew Archer mysteries are so very good, so smooth and delicious, it is impossible not to read them so fast they don't stay in your mind after. Anyway, definitely worth reading again.

Dec 2011:
Another totally satisfying Ross Macdonald book. Many think him a weaker imitation of Chandler, and obviously he was inspired, but - unpopular as this admission might be - at times I think I like Macdonald better. He's more subtle and he always has a stellar mystery.
Profile Image for Still.
574 reviews83 followers
May 4, 2020

"You look tired, Lew. But you do exist."

The 11th Lew Archer.
Some aesthetes were riffing on Ross Macdonald this morning on another site.

Quoted Westlake's dismissal -"this guy must have bought carbon paper by the pound..." ...you know, because all of his books in the series seem to have plots that are a mite redundant.

I could give a rat's ass.

They entertain me and it's so easy to dismiss the "Lew Archer" series for being apparently repetitive.
I can't argue for the defense.
I love every novel I've read in the series.
Same goes for this.

This one finds Archer hired by a Dobie Gillis like collegiate to defend his newish-wife, a troubled young woman who may or may not have committed a bevy of crimes... including murder.
Archer is retained by the husband as well as the dean of the college and the dean's mom to prove the young woman's innocence.

Footsteps approached from the direction of the main house. A big man in an alligator coat emerged from the fog, his bald head gleaming in the light from the doorway. He greeted Bradshaw warmly:

"Hello, Roy. I enjoyed your speech, what I heard of it. You'll elevate us the Athens of the West. Unfortunately a patient dragged me out in the middle of it. She wanted to know if it was safe for her to see a Tennessee Williams movie all by herself. She really wanted me to go along with her and protect her from bad thoughts". He turned to me. "Mr. Archer? I'm Dr. Godwin."


No spoilers.
Dr. Godwin is just a son of a bitch.
Like most analysts.
Only he seems intent on directing his patients to follow a script of his own making.

We drove toward Reno, a city where nothing good has ever happened to me, but I kept hoping.

So many suspects.
I guessed wrong every time I thought I had a handle on the plot.
I was wrong every time.
When the culprit is revealed in the last 15 or so pages, I was stunned.
It was just too sick.
Every character in this novel is a mental case but nothing prepares the reader for the Big Reveal.

She explained about all the brilliant ideas ***** was always hatching. The one I liked best was a plan for a condensed version of the Bible, with all of the offensive passages removed, for family reading."
Profile Image for AC.
1,693 reviews
July 16, 2014
This is, to put it bluntly, Macdonald at his peak. If you want to read one Macdonald book, this is it. (The Galton Case comes in second.)

There are some key similarities of theme with Zebra, which (notwithstanding the flaws I indicated in my review of that book) is excellent, and it would probably help to read Zebra before reading The Chill.

It has been said that late Archer is a therapist, with a priviate detective's licence. And it is Macdonald's skill to have been able to create plausibly, and in less than 300 pages, such a web of neurotic entanglements that the normal person might find it hard to credit them..., but which I can tell you (from bitter experience) is anything but rare in this world.

Sometimes such entanglements occur in families, sometimes in the workplace, or in the diplomatic relations of nations on the verge of war.... Macdonald transposed the psychology to the murder-scenario where it gains a certain plausibility and allows for a certain purity of analysis. Purity of analysis.

But make no mistake, it is simply the human condition he has come to analyze in its rawest forms.
Profile Image for Monique.
194 reviews26 followers
April 4, 2022
There’s clearly some commonalities to all the Lew Archer novels I’ve read - but this one had a stunning reveal - a plot twist I really never saw (it earned the fifth star). The writing didn’t sing to me as much as Black Money, but it was still gripping and well constructed.
Profile Image for Seamus Thompson.
171 reviews48 followers
July 12, 2022

My favorite mystery novel.

Ross Macdonald writes in the noir/private eye tradition of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett but there the resemblance ends. Chandler features a strong first-person narrator (Marlowe) and plots made up of well-crafted scenes (and many loose ends). Macdonald's narrator (Lew Archer) is a minor character who just happens to be in every scene and his plots are as clever and intricate as the best British mysteries. Where other crime writers in the gumshoe genre are obsessed with vengeance fantasies, Macdonald's interests are family dynamics, Justice (especially its fallout), and the ways in which the past haunts the living.

The plot of the The Chill is so complex that trying to describe it here is nearly impossible. In brief, Archer is hired by a young newlywed to find his wife who disappeared on the night of their honeymoon. He does so in short order but finding her only raises more questions, many of which seem to be tied to a murder that occurred two decades earlier. As Archer tries to piece together the past (and the present, which has murders of its own before long) he finds himself moving through the various social strata of a coastal college town in southern California.

The Chill features one of the great twist endings--one that passes the crucial test of being unexpected and inevitable. This forgotten masterpiece of detective fiction deserves a wider readership.
Profile Image for F.R..
Author 30 books201 followers
March 23, 2016
And now I understand why those more au fait than Ross McDonald than I, have been heartily recommending that I read ‘The Chill’.

This is one of the best detective novels I’ve read (and I really haven’t been a slouch at picking up detective novels). ‘The Chill’ is an absolutely superb mystery tale with real depth and a tonne of atmosphere. There is no higher praise from me than to say it is worthy of Raymond Chandler.
Archer is hired – almost as a spontaneous decision – by Alex Kincaid, a young man whose new wife has disappeared on their honeymoon. The wife actually turns out to be easy to find, but Archer’s digging swiftly leads to three murders – two old and one brand new – and Archer finds himself sinking deeper and deeper. This is a mystery which keeps on giving, where twist and turns and red herrings are used so skilfully and artfully. They come about as part of the character, rather than simply through the mechanics of the plot. So it isn’t like Agatha Christie, where the workings are visible and look contrived as a consequence – but a sleek sports car of a thriller which one can only marvel at. I defy anyone to guess whodunit.

The fact that Archer is hired on the hoof by someone who has only just learnt of his existence ten minutes before, lends the book something of a fish out of water feel, even as our hero is operating on home turf. It gives the whole piece a disorientating quality, so that everything is that little bit more dangerous. And this is the book of MacDonald’s, of those I’ve read so far, where the fact that Archer is something of a cipher is best used. He’s like a sponge which can absorb the other character’s neurosis and psychosis, encouraging them to spill even more of their deep, dark secrets; but he’s also a mirror which can hold these secrets up to them and let them know who they really are.

This is superlative crime fiction. If you like Ross MacDonald, or like Chandler – or enjoy mysteries of any hue – ‘The Chill’ is definitely recommended.
Profile Image for Joe.
1,017 reviews29 followers
May 13, 2016
"You think I'm an alcoholic or something?"
"I think you're a bundle of nerves. Pour alcohol on a bundle of nerves and it generally turns into a can of worms. While I'm making suggestions you might as well get rid of those chips you're wearing on both shoulders. Somebody's liable to knock them off and take a piece of you with them."

"I drove downhill through deepening twilight toward the Mariner's Rest Motel, telling myself in various tones of voice that I had done the right thing. The trouble was, in the scene I had just walked out of, there was no right thing to do - only sins of commission and omission."

The best reference to large breasts in all of literature: "Roy has always been attracted to women who are obviously mammals."

"The Chill" may be my favorite Ross Macdonald book yet and that's really saying something. This book had everything I look for in a noir detective book:
- A compelling protagonist. Lew Archer just keeps getting better and better in each outing. He is world weary but simultaneously compelled to do the right thing. There was a time during this story that he could have easily walked away and no one would have faulted him. He was no longer being paid. The mystery was "solved." But he stuck with it and got the job done.
- The mystery. It literally kept me guessing until the final three pages. And there was no cheating! All the information was given to the reader as Archer himself discovered it.
- The writing. As the quotes I pulled show, Macdonald could really deliver a great turn of phrase. There's something about his writing that feels alive, fresh, and real...even after all these years. These are real people with real pain that Macdonald writes about. If there's a stereotype, it's commented on, smashed apart, and then put back together.

If you read one Lew Archer book, read this one. (But don't just read one. They're all amazing!)
Profile Image for Eldonfoil TH*E Whatever Champion.
236 reviews43 followers
June 24, 2009
Getting the inevitable comparison out of the way, this is the second Ross MacDonald novel I've read and he does not come close to the soul Raymond Chandler poured into his novels. Not coming close to Chandler doesn't mean MacDonald is not any good, however. From what others write, The Chill is one of MacDonald's best, perhaps the best. While he does basically copy Chandler's form without being able to replicate Chandler's glorious intangibles, this is a damn good noir story in its own right. Yes, it could be criticized for not developing enough atmosphere or for letting Archer (protagonist/detective) walk from one fluid hunch to another convenient finding all too easily, but I don't agree that there is lack of characterization or insight into human behavior/society in this book. Sure, the characters play their select role in this grand plot, but even in that context, the players seem real to me. Nearly all the characters are clouded in such mystique that I was never sure what to make about any of them, and for me this very much developed a luscious tension. Yes, I would have loved to see Chandler write this story to see stronger atmosphere, shinier corpses (metaphorically), and a grand hammering of academia, but it is Ross Macdonald's story and as I sped through curiously to its hidden conclusion, I had to give him credit: my spine shivered and I felt "the chill."
Profile Image for Greg.
1,805 reviews18 followers
August 18, 2021
Mid-20th Century North American Crime and Mystery
COUNTDOWN: #7 (of 250)
Oh, I am jealous of readers who have not read this book. The plot is...undiscussable...
HOOK - 5 stars: An opening in court. Mrs. Perrine is on trial. Archer is the final person to take the stand. He studies the courtroom, ready to move on to his next case. But this one isn't over. Perrine: innocent or guilty? Archer: involvement? He plays both sides, after all. And the jurors are puzzled. Archer leaves the stand and is approached for another case. That's page one. A pitch-perfect hook.
PACE - 4 stars: I gave this 5 stars for the first read. It does take off like a brakes-gone-bad ice-road-trucker. But I noticed during the second read a slight mid-point hesitation. To build tension? Give the reader a break? The pace isn't a perfect build to release, just almost.
PLOT - 5 stars: I'll just quote a back-cover blurb: "...one of the most intricate plots ever spun by an American crime author..." Baffling and brilliant.
PEOPLE - 5 stars: First, Archer. The NYTIMES says: "The American private eye, immortalized by Hammett, refined by Chandler, brought to its zenith by Ross Macdonald. The rest?
Dr. Geisman: "It's foggy...my eyesight is so poor...I can't tell the difference...you and the Good Lord himself..."
Archer's reply: "There isn't much difference," in perfect noir style.
Alex Kincaid, naive, looking for Dolly, the other half of a marriage not consummated. Dolly is in college and is also a part-time driver for a rich lady, her son the Dean of the college Dolly attends. Sammy Fargo is a photographer. Chuck Begley lives at Marge's place, but thinks Dolly is his daughter. Professor Hen Haggerty meets Archer, things get steamy. Then bodies start piling up and the plot goes round and round.
ATMOSPHERE - 4 stars: "The heavy red-figured drapes...incompletely closed against the sun." (Or, rather, the truth is peaking in to a court?) Academia, and lots of people trying to outsmart each other. A foggy mass hangs over the California coast, specifically Pacific Point. Rich people and their homes. Dreams destroyed in Southern California: a "beach turned out to be a kind of expensive slum...cottages stood..." in line. Real estate. More money. Thing is, MacDonald has visited this atmosphere many times, and done it better in other novels.
SUMMARY - 4.6: Some might argue that Ross Macdonald is a better author than Hammett or Chandler. Overall, considering bodies of novels, I agree, although early Hammett is about impossible to improve upon. Other raves: "An entertainment of almost Byzantine complexity" and "Ross Macdonald must be ranked high amongst American thriller authors" (Times, London) but finally, from the NYTimes: "...the year's most startling surprise solution." This is not only a great noir novel, but it's a thriller, a mystery, it's steamy, it's a masterpiece of plot, and finally a last-minute...oh, just read this one.
Profile Image for Đorđe Bajić.
Author 22 books152 followers
September 27, 2021
Pa, da krenemo... Obećao sam vam osvrte na tri prva romana objavljena u ediciji Čarobne knjige „Najbolji krimi-romani sveta“. Krenuo sam sa Rosom Mekdonaldom zato što sam iz pouzdanih izvora čuo mnogo toga lepog o njegovom radu i zato što nisam ranije pročitao nijedan njegov roman (gledao sam filmove sa Polom Njumenom zasnovane na prva dva romana o Luu Arčeru, ali to je priča za neku drugu prigodu). „Jeza“ je zapravo 11. roman u serijalu o privatnom detektivu Arčeru što nimalo ne smeta da se počne baš od ovog naslova. U najkraćem: 320 strana, prvo lice, mnoštvo živopisnih likova, vrcavi dijalozi. Vuče na Čendlera, s tim da je modernije. Filip Marlou je iz današnje perspektive baš retro (što je divno) dok bi „Jeza“, iako objavljena 1963. godine, mogla lako da se adaptira u film smešten u savremeni trenutak. Misterija je veoma zamršena i obuhvata period od dvadeset i više godina. Radnja je smeštena u nekoliko dana, ali Arčer uskoro shvata da je najnovije ubistvo samo poslednje u nizu - pre njega su bila bar još dva, jedno pre 10, drugo pre 20 godina. Ono što mi se posebno dopalo je način na koji je postavljena misterija: sa svakom novom stranicom priča postaje sve zamršenija, Mekdonald daje dosta prostora da mozgate šta se i zašto dogodilo, šta je laž, a šta obmana. Završnica ja baš ubitačna, zbrzana taman onoliko koliko je bilo potrebno da se sve završi na najjačem mestu. Prema tome - PREPORUKA. Tim pre što je Oto Oltvanji sjajno preveo roman na srpski. Želim da što pre nastavim druženje sa Arčerom, lepo smo se našli.
Profile Image for Gabriel.
Author 14 books130 followers
July 17, 2009
This is, as of its reading, my favorite Macdonald novel. Better by leaps and bounds than the books that came before it, although I see that The Galton Case could have been the real breakthrough-- The Chill takes Macdonald's previous novel's sophisticated use of plot and character and turns them in on themselves.

The Chill is that rare "mystery" that does not violate Chandler's rule of the reader being privy to all of the information that the PI has, while still remaining a mystery to the end. That's really the secret to Macdonald's maxim: "The surprise with which a detective novel concludes should set up tragic vibrations which run backward through the entire structure." Here, Macdonald actually manages his Oedipal moment (in more ways than one), and, really, it works.

The introductions Macdonald provided to Archer in Hollywood, Archer at Large (where I read this novel and The Galton Case) and Archer in Jeopardy are his version of James's New York Edition Introductions, and are well worth reading. They are also reprinted in Ceaselessly into the Past, which has a few other essays that are worth reading, too.
Profile Image for William.
675 reviews324 followers
October 12, 2017
... wow. Page after page linear story, verbose, dead dialogue and shallow characters. I'm done.


I was having trouble remembering "The Chill" when challenged by a friend. I see I reviewed and rated it in March, but apparently I did not finish it. It looks like I read at least 10%.

*checks and reads back*

Yes, the first 12% of the book is horrifically verbose and dull. Stilted clichéd dialogue, sometimes smart-alec but without being snappy, reads like a laundry list.

Ponderous. Perhaps it picks up later?
Profile Image for Ed.
634 reviews54 followers
July 10, 2018
Classic noir tale of murder in 1960's Los Angeles. PI Lew Archer is methodical and relentless in his pursuit of answers for his young bridegroom client. Thanks Billy Baer for the book and recommendation!
Profile Image for Erik.
338 reviews267 followers
December 27, 2018
In my review of Crumley’s The Last Good Kiss, I created the thesis that detective noir are, fundamentally, masculine romances. That is, they explore gender relations in the context of violence [I have a much more detailed discussion in the review]. And so far every noir I’ve read has seemed to fit this definition. Almost disappointingly so, for much of the magic has been lost now that I understand how the trick works. Still, the idea of a noir as a ‘masculine romance’ is rather helpful in evaluating a noir novel, for I know the questions I ponder must be female centric: How good are the female characters? How interesting are their interactions with the male characters? What happens to the LIGHTHOUSE? Who is the femme fatale?

In creating this thesis, I furthermore broke noir female characters into a few basic types, which in turn reflect stereotypical gender roles:

*the LOVER, who might be better labeled the FRIEND, is a woman good enough to sleep with, but not good enough to murder someone over.

*The HOUSEKEEPER maintains domestic order, in order to liberate men to pursue their passions and vices.

*The TEMPTRESS offers the hollow promise of sexual gratification, an offer the detective often refuses (for - contrary to popular media depiction - to enjoy and want sex is not the same thing as being a slave to it).

*The MOTHER, the second most important character, is always a borderline sinister character, as the man feels both affection and duty towards her but nevertheless wishes to escape her influence to become his own man.

*The LIGHTHOUSE, the most important of all characters, is the ‘woman upon a pedestal.’ The Platonic Ideal. The LIGHTHOUSE is never just a person. She’s an idea. And ideas are worth killing over.

The lighthouse is the heart of every noir and the greatest, final statement of a given work is the truth of her: Does she turn out to be a murderess? Does she turn out to be true? Or does she perish, destroyed by the machinations of this corrupt, stormy world?

Before I enter spoiler territory in answering this question, lemme first give a quick review for those who want to avoid spoilers:

For me, Raymond Chandler’s noir is the benchmark against which I weigh every other noir. And, so far, every other author has fallen short. Not only does Raymond Chandler’s novels have sharp dialogue, good crime writing, and great character, they have devastating wit and are, at times, beautiful - indeed transformative.

As an example, there’s one line in Chandler’s Farewell, my Lovely that describes a woman’s face: “It was pretty … Yet it was a very ordinary face and its prettiness was strictly assembly line.” Strictly assembly line! Genius.

This line (and this is just one example of many) has gotten inside me - I’ve been incepted by it, if you will. It’s gotten where, when I look at actresses and actors and models, the supposed pinnacle of beauty in the world, all I can think is “well that’s just strictly assembly line.” This blandly symmetric, blemish-free, carefully cultivated face. Eugh. By contrast, my appreciation for the skew and flaw in normal people’s faces has grown. Now I see beauty in these home-grown faces. They’re not assembly line. They’re unique and interesting. Because of that one line, the beauty I find in the world has multiplied, as I’ve shirked the chains of society & evolution’s standards of beauty. So, yes, transformative.

Unfortunately, there’s no such wit, no such transformative beautiful writing in The Chill. I am utterly flabbergasted by claims to the contrary. What? Where?

That said, this book is blemish-free. It is without flaw. In fact, I read The Chill after a novel that was a bit of a descriptive hell. This book is not. It is dialogue. Period. And I appreciated that. It was a straight-forward read which tickled my inner detective without taxing my patience for excess verbiage. It really is to Ross MacDonald’s credit that so intricate a plot doesn’t feel the least bit confusing. MacDonald is, if nothing else, a smooth writer.

Plot-wise, The Chill tells the story of the detective Archer Lew being hired by a newly married man to track down his newly vanished wife. There’s a murder, as indeed there must be, and down the rabbit hole we go, into the interweaving of two cases, involving a cast of an ex-convict, an overprotective(?) shrink, a retired detective, a university dean and his overprotective mother, and several other of your usual suspects.

So for those who reading this review for a recommendation, I’ll say this: Chandler is better. Hammett is better. Crumley is better. Hell, the Altered Carbon future noir series is better. I’d recommend ALL of those first. And that might be damning by faint praise - but Ross Macdonald knows his business. Everything in here is absolutely solid. It really is without flaw… it’s just it’s also without risk either. It’s about as formulaic as you can get, which isn’t a bad thing, if you like the formula.


Now, for those who have already read The Chill - or simply interesting in a little deeper analysis, let’s get into how the women characters shape up:

Helen Haggerty is the TEMPTRESS, for sure. She very obviously attempts to seduce Archer, so that he might protect her. Interestingly enough, it is Archer’s refusal to do so that results in her being killed - and it is his guilt about this which compels him to find the truth. I find this fascinating, as it suggests Archer’s sin was not sleeping with her, in an inversion of Judeo-Christian principles (and horror/slasher genre tropes, as well - which is equally amusing, the idea that Christian principles and slasher tropes are like brother and sister).

Alice Jenks is much in the vein of a HOUSEKEEPER. It’s all business to her, which I find an interesting commentary on the nature of pragmatism vs emotion. I think, while female romances tend to skew more towards the emotional and masculine romances more toward the pragmatic, they both suggest you have to walk a middle line between them when it comes to relationship. You can’t be without emotion, but neither can you fully indulge emotion. It’s not at all surprising that Alice Jenks is a lonely character, who especially resents the strong emotions of others.

Laura Sutherland is quite obviously Roy’s LIGHTHOUSE - she represents his escape from his current life. She’s a sad character, really, being given recycled poems and letters. I’m minded of a joke Bill Maher once made about the way men view women: “There’s only two types of women. Old. And new.” In this respect, she’s simply the new one for Roy which is, apparently, enough for him to die over - but then dying was also the escape he really yearned for.

Dolly Kinkaid, Alex’s new wife, is the more traditional LIGHTHOUSE of the novel. She represents, to Alex, a new purpose in his life and when confronted with remaining a boy (and returning home with his father) and becoming a man, he ultimately chooses to become a man. So he really goes to bat for her… and his faith is rewarded. She wasn’t a murderess, she was a victim. In the noir novel, this is as about a happy ending as you can hope for, which gives The Chill a rather optimistic feel overall.

Mrs. Bradshaw (Letitia) I saved for last because she is definitely the star of the show, despite not being the LIGHTHOUSE. Rather she is the MOTHER and, as usual, contains an element of Oedipus. In fact, Mrs. Bradshaw exactly embodies the conflict of the MOTHER: the man both loves and resents her. Roy’s desire to escape from her, to become his own person once more, leads him to ultimately commit suicide. I think this ‘twist’ was deftly done, but explicitly combining the MOTHER and the WIFE is less a stroke of genius and more a flaying of the genre’s skin to reveal the skeleton underneath.

All said, I wish we had seen more of Dolly. I found it unfortunate that she’s essentially non-existent throughout much of the novel, thereby removing some of the idealism and brightness that typically makes a noir novel such a sordid affair. Without the lighthouse… it’s all just so much muck and grime, with nary a hint of brightness to refresh one's soul.
Profile Image for Jamie.
1,160 reviews104 followers
October 26, 2019
There's a lot to like about this noir detective classic. Masterfully developed characters, excellent pacing and structure, and the plot is oh so brilliantly juicy. Intricate, yet tightly woven. There's never a dull moment as Archer works tirelessly to piece together the ever expanding puzzle of what at first appears to be a simple case of a missing bride and slowly develops into an intricate web of murders spanning decades, with a host of fraught family relationships and some chilling skeletons hiding in the closet.
Profile Image for Leslie.
2,666 reviews202 followers
September 24, 2016
Excellent example of the gumshoe style of mystery. One aspect that I particularly like is the fact that the book is focused entirely on the mystery - no long passages about the detective's personal problems. I don't mean to imply that Lew Archer is one-dimensional but that he is a man who focuses on the job. This had plenty of twists and surprises but none that the author 'cheats' with - the reader learns about them when Archer does.
Profile Image for Jeff Jackson.
Author 4 books468 followers
March 17, 2017
An excellent hardboiled detective story in the vein of Chandler and Hammett and an exploration of festering secrets and compounding li(v)es. Plus it's one of the most intricately plotted mysteries I've read - plausible tension that lasts until the final paragraphs.
4.5 stars
Profile Image for Jessica.
593 reviews3,381 followers
August 10, 2014
Ross MacDonald is, for me, the guy you keep on dating way too long because he's got lots of qualities that you value and you're convinced you should be really into him, but no matter how hard you try, despite the odd fun night or great conversation, that certain something just isn't there.

I'm not sure what the problem is. I like his California settings and, for the most part, his plots, and he does have some strong, interesting characters. While I almost like his preoccupation with the mental health system and appreciate aspects of the way he represents it, I'm impatient with the Freudian-tinged psychological mumbo jumbo that he just has a bit too much enthusiasm for detailing.

The real problem though, I think, is that I find Archer bland. He's not really rough enough, or sensitive enough, or flawed or brilliant enough to hold my attention: he's sort of more of an Everyman than it turns out I want in a PI. I also am just not that impressed with MacDonald's prose. He gets off a few good lines now and then, but his writing is uneven and when he aspires to more literary heights the effort can read as a bit strained.

I do love the detailed glimpse into a lost mid-twentieth-century California, though, and I did read this book in one (debilitated-by-a-bad-back) day, so it's not like I thought it was bad.

I did really like The Galton Case, but this book, like the other MacDonalds I've read, just never really "did" it for me. Don't get me wrong, I liked it fine, and it did have its merits (and a pretty good ending, which is nice). But it's time I sat down with Ross and explained that he's a swell guy but we'd be better as friends.
Profile Image for Calzean.
2,599 reviews1 follower
October 14, 2017
For a crime mystery to be written over 50 years ago and still pack a punch, it has to be good. And this one was very good. Three murders over 20 years, a cast of potential suspects (maybe too many characters), great descriptions of people, a lead character who is on every page but does not dominate the story and a series of twists right up to the last paragraph. Maybe the dialogue was a bit dull and circular at times but overall I was impressed with my first Ross Macdonald book.
Profile Image for Milan Konjevic.
129 reviews6 followers
August 16, 2021
Veliko majstorstvo je potrebno da bi se pisalo ovako ekonomicno, sa ovolikom kolicinom dijaloga, sturih, a vrlo efektnih opisa, a da se kod citalaca proizvede utisak da sav taj galimatijas likova i misterija koja se proteze na vise od dvadeset godina deluju ovako realno i opipljivo. Nadam se da se izdavac nece zaustaviti samo na ovom romanu Rosa Makdonalda, covek je pravi maestro.
Profile Image for Ellen.
950 reviews127 followers
May 18, 2022
The Chill (hardback) by Ross MacDonald.

Lew Archer is his name-solving unpredictable psychological mysteries is his game. Another 5 star book by the late great R.M.
The solving a this murder...make that 3 murders is slow as the wheels in Lew's mind turn, but turn they do. Picking up one clue here another there making ends meet in towns known only to those whose involvement has remained hidden for decades.
Then loose ends come together, but not until the end when Lew Archer adds them up. Two + two equals four in reality, but in Archer's world were not dealing with reality. We're dealing with twisted minds and murder.
Enter the world of Lew Archer where two dollars is a respectable tip at any watering hold. A world where five dollars is plenty to encourage a man to spill the beans.
You may be coming late to the Lew Archer party, but come as you are and enjoy the feast. Great read-great (not forgotten) author.
Profile Image for Frank.
718 reviews34 followers
April 3, 2013
Pretty damn good! Taut, fast-paced, snappy dialogue, with wisecracks sometimes reminiscent of the 40s noirs, but still modern enough to make you mentally picture Paul Newman or Steve McQueen in the main role instead of Humphrey Bogart. The Dutch essayist Bas Heijne recently touted this as being 'better than Chandler and Hammet', and there's something to that. Chandler could be self-indulgent in his prose and messy in his plots, Hammet may have been important in the shaping of the hard-boiled detective genre but never was its greatest or most entertaining practitioner (it seems to me).

This book is entertaining, incredibly fast-paced and so lean and economic in its narrative. No lush descriptions and long musings of the narrator, but many eminently quotable passages nonetheless – effective character descriptions or witty dialogue. Even a hint of poetry here and there. And some stray literary allusions to keep the professors busy, if they want to be. This is as good as pulp fiction gets, for my money. Seems to me he deserves a place in the Library of America. (More so than Goodis, who recently entered that pantheon. Which is nice, as it serves to rekindle interest in his, possibly interesting, work. But what I've read of that so far can't hold a candle to this.)

By the way, the denouement (which the reader sees coming just a few pages ahead of the narrator-detective, I think – at least I did) is as gothic/victorian as they come. The work and the writing are resolutely contemporary, but the ending is pure 19th century melodrama. Very interesting.

A few quotes, to give some impression of his laconic-ironic style:

The architecture of her face had collapsed under the weight of her flesh and years. Still, her black eyes were alert, like unexpected animal or bird life in the ruins of a building.

There were mottoes on the walls instead of pictures, and one of them brought back with a rush and a pang my grandmother's house in Martinez. It said: 'He is the Silent Listener at Every Conversation.' My grandmother had hand-embroidered the same motto and hung it in her bedroom. She always whispered.

Somebody has to assume responsibility. There's a lot of it floating around loose at the moment. You can't avoid it by crawling into a hole and pulling the hole in after you.

Kincaid was a frightened man who valued his status the way some previous generatiosn valued their souls.

She explained about the brilliant ideas Jud was always hatching. The one I liked best was a plan for a condensed version of the Bible, with all the offensive passages removed.

I walked on to the next corner, sat on a bench at a bus stop, and read in my new book about Heraclitus. All things flow like a river, he said; nothing abides. Parmenides, on the other hand, believed that nothing ever changed, it only seemed to. Both views appealed to me.

Profile Image for George K..
2,369 reviews292 followers
April 21, 2015
"Το ρίγος", εκδόσεις ΒΙΠΕΡ.

Το δεύτερο βιβλίο που διαβάζω με ήρωα τον Λιου Άρτσερ, το πρώτο ήταν το πολύ καλό Η νεκροφόρα με τις ρίγες. Το Ρίγος μου φάνηκε λίγο καλύτερο. Κλασικό νουάρ της δεκαετίας του '60, με τα όλα του. Με φόνους, μυστήριο, κρυμμένα μυστικά, οικογενειακά πάθη, έρωτες, τα πάντα. Πάρα πολύ καλή πλοκή, με ανατροπές και αποκαλύψεις, και με ένα τέλος πολύ δυνατό και αποκαλυπτικό - δεν μπορώ να πω ότι το περίμενα. Επίσης, ζωντανοί και αληθινοί χαρακτήρες, πιστευτοί και έξυπνοι διάλογοι, καλές περιγραφές και εξαιρετική ατμόσφαιρα. Ένα αστυνομικό με τα όλα του, με λίγα λόγια. Η γραφή επιπέδου Τσάντλερ και βάλε.
Profile Image for Thekelburrows.
677 reviews18 followers
February 13, 2018
Pretty much cookie cutter but like a cool dinosaur shaped cookie cutter rather than just a plain round one.
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