Monday, December 28, 2009

The Chill - Ross Macdonald

A special thanks to Ford Thomas for the hookup.

To bring it back to crime fiction, I recently took a heart-pounding stroll into the world of paperback novels. And as the title suggests, I read a Ross Macdonald work - The Chill, which was originally published in 1964.

The Chill starts out offering Detective Lew Archer, Macdonald’s MVP, the simple case of tracking down a runaway wife for a determined and very caring husband, but quickly the book reveals its true notions when the simple case explodes into Archer solving three murders….at once! The past always comes back to haunt, right? Now, in today’s form of crime fiction, a complex, twisting plot is nothing new – it is pretty much expected. But, in 1964 and even earlier in Macdonald’s career, probably not so much the case as I would dare to guess. Yeah, you probably had a few choice stories, but overall it was not a common thing – especially in crime fiction paperbacks.

Reading the book in its context, the structure and style are truly remarkable. Even in today’s standards, the book is still as riveting as ever. It is a plot that constantly grows and invites the reader to piece together along side Archer. How? Well, Macdonald does an awesome job providing so many suspects. And, leaning on Macdonald’s knack for penning three-dimensional characters, the book’s cast is one that holds weight. I absolutely loved the way he introduced each character to the reader. Macdonald lays out their connection to the case, but he also subtlety hints at the character’s flaw – that flaw is what tunes the reader in to question the characters presence and raises suspicion.

And, you cannot forget Macdonald’s dialog. Like any master of the form, the man’s dialog provides such a slick texture to the story that just allows the reader to continue for hours. Yeah, some of the dialog sounds like what a reader would expect from dry wit detective, but it is the way Macdonald structures the banter between characters that gives the book its flow.

From what I could gather of Macdonald’s writing in this one book, it appears to me that his style has had some significant influence of the contemporary stuff. His characters have depth, and the way he writes leans more towards the psychological aspects of people and how specific situations affect them. That idea makes it so that I need to read all of the man’s work. Overall, I just really enjoyed The Chill. The book has re-ignited my excitement to read more novels, and it has opened up the door for me to explore another writer of the crime fiction genre.

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