The Underground Man (Lew Archer Series #16)

The Underground Man (Lew Archer Series #16)

by Ross Macdonald


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As a mysterious fire rages through the hills above a privileged town in Southern California, Archer tracks a missing child who may be the pawn in a marital struggle or the victim of a bizarre kidnapping.  What he uncovers amid the ashes is murder—and a trail of motives as combustible as gasoline.  The Underground Man is a detective novel of merciless suspense and tragic depth, with an unfaltering insight into the moral ambiguities at the heart of California's version of the American dream.

If any writer can be said to have inherited the mantle of Dashiell Hammet and Raymond Chandler, it was Ross Macdonald.  Between the late 1940s and his death in 1983, he gave the American crime novel a psychological depth and moral complexity that his predecessors had only hinted at.  And in the character of Lew Archer, Macdonald redefined the private eye as a roving conscience who walks the treacherous frontier between criminal guilt and human sin.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679768081
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/26/1996
Series: Lew Archer Series , #16
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 312,698
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Ross Macdonald's real name was Kenneth Millar.  Born near San Francisco in 1915 and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, Millar returned to the U.S. as a young man and published his first novel in 1944.  He served as the President of the Mystery Writers of America and was awarded their Grand Master Award, as well as the Mystery Writers of Great Britain's Silver Dagger Award.  He died in 1983.

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Eudora Welty

A more serious and complex writer than Chandler and Hammett ever were.
—(Eudora Welty)

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The Underground Man (Lew Archer Series #16) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
SmithDoug More than 1 year ago
Quite likely one of the greatest noir novels ever written. Macdonald tackles not only the ecological destruction by men of the planet but exposes the filthiness of the inherent nastiness of people. Along with Chandler's The Long Goodbye, this is the best of the genre. Macdonald hearkens the philosophical arguments of Hobbes, that man, in the state of nature, is an evil mess bent on accumulating whatever he can with little regard for methods or bloody trails. Archer, Macdonald's detective, serves as the author's voice, who, with a critical and jaundiced eye, stays above the fray with a moral superiority that seems false. This is both a fantastic novel - tightly plotted, shocking, full of passages that demand rereading, and descriptive beyond mention - and a social critique of the highest order.
wildbill on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a Lew Archer mystery that for me is one of the best books in the series. Archer's involvement in the story is as much personal as business and there are two themes from the series that are brought out very well.The book begins with Archer out in his front yard throwing peanuts to some blue jays. A small boy comes out of the house next door and joins him. He is Ronald Broadhurst who becomes a central figure in the story. This beginning is a perfect set up for the rest of the story. His parents have just separated and after Ronny's father picks him up to visit his grandmother he disappears and Archer is hired to find him.In the course of his search for Ronny Archer meets Sue Crandall and Jerry Kilpatrick. They are two young people who are alienated from their parents and the rest of the world. This is a theme that appears often in MacDonald's books. Parents and their children talking past each other without communicating living in different worlds. The parents all think they have good relationships with their children but the children are really just objects in the parent's world. The children feel alone and unloved and act out these feelings to the confusion of the parents.Sue and Jerry take Ronald away on a boat which Jerry is taking care of. Archer follows their trail which ends up with Sue standing on the side of the Golden Gate Bridge deciding whether or not to jump.Stanley Broadhurst is found buried behind his mother's house having started a disastrous fire during the course of his murder. Further digging finds that his father, who was murdered 15 years ago is buried beneath him. All of the murders are traced back to one of Archer's favorite villains. A seemingly nice old lady who has lived a life motivated by fear and hate. I don't think this requires a spoiler alert since there are several suspects for this role.This book was very well written and is one of my favorite Lew Archer novels to date. There is a real depth to the characters and Archer's interaction with them. MacDonald is an excellent writer who writes detective stories that are good literature.
jastbrown on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's been fun to read this series in chronological order. They just keep getting better. This, I believe, is his most convoluted story yet.. almost too intricate to keep up with if you're reading this 10-20 pp at a time, every other day or so! It's also been fun seeing the series, and Lew Archer, go from the Phillip Marlowe era to Jet planes and heart transplants. Very satisfying book and series!
kerns222 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The plane trip was 6 hours so I got in a couple reads. As always, Macdonald asks who fathered, who deserted, who coupled, who killed. A little Freud and a little mayhem. Readable and twisty as all the relationships get dragged out of the basement or the attic. OK.
Ben114 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Really solid entry in the Lew Archer series. Macdonald represents a good bridge between the golden age and hard boiled detective genre, where it's technically hard boiled but the mystery is the centerpiece of the story. It's a solid mystery that has excellent sociological observations and implications, but also keeps the reader's attention throughout.
bigorangecat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
After comsuming all of , and smitten by,Chandler's works, I was *craving* that kind of evocative language and point of view to pick up Chandler's "slack," but Macdonald's works took my wholly ill-conceived misnomer of "slack" and shot it to a level that is both classic and current, even today. What a genius. I should add that the rest of his works were amazing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago