The Moving Target

I said I was going to read this book after catching up on Grafton’s alphabet series. This book is credited by Sue Grafton as being highly influential to her work. She even uses Macdonald’s fictional California town of Santa Theresa as the setting for her books (it’s really Santa Barbara). That’s a serious tribute.

Macdonald’s main character is a private detective name Lew Archer. Much like Kinsey Millhone, he roams southern California solving mysteries. I’ve already read a set of his short stories so I knew what I was getting into.

This was a fine book by an interesting author. Macdonald is one of our greatest crime writers, too bad he’s a University of Michigan grad. That won’t stop me from reading his books. I’ll grab The Drowning Pool, his second Lew Archer book, the next time I’m at Open Books.

Archer was just as surly and prone to violence as he was in the group of short stories I read. He was a little funnier than I expected though; very quick with the quip, like this moment when he was tailing a suspect at night:

The truck highballed along as if it was safe on rails. I let it get out of sight, switched my lights again, and tried to feel like a new man driving a different car.

That was back when cars had fog lamps. It was published in 1949, although with cars and telephones, it doesn’t feel too dated.

The story is about a millionaire gone missing and Archer is hired by the wife to track him down. There was plenty of family carnage in the back story and no shortage of odd characters. I lost my place in the story a few times. It’s been a busy couple of weeks and my concentration often waned, so I’ll chock it up to that. I never lost interest though. The lineup of brutal gangsters, seedy lawyers, shady women, and friendly enemies kept me alert and tuned-in. Great stuff.