Review- Macdonald, “The Moving Target”

Ross Macdonald, “The Moving Target” (1949) (narrated by Tom Parker) – Corruption and sex in the Southern California sunshine are the order of the day in this hardboiled detective novel. Ross Macdonald and Ray Chandler apparently didn’t get along- Chandler thought Macdonald a softie who couldn’t write, and Macdonald thought Chandler an unrealistic hardhead. That being said, to most readers, Chandler and Macdonald will read a lot alike. That’s a good thing, because both are excellent. Macdonald’s Lew Archer is a chiller, less existential private eye than Chandler’s Marlowe, but takes plenty of chances to observe the philosophical and social quandaries of the milieux he finds himself in. In “The Moving Target,” this consists of a rich family, the Sampsons, whose patriarch Ralph has disappeared, and the lowlives with whom Ralph, a former oil wildcatter, was spending time to feel more alive. The latter included a tumbledown alcoholic movie actress, a sun-worshipping cult leader, and a British gangster (and importer of undocumented workers- Archer takes the workers’ side, but in a Chandler-esque too-cynical-to-really-challenge-the-structures way). Of course, the seediest milieu of all is that of the rich and depraved, so the problem came from inside the house, but Archer finds himself with more crimes than he knows what to do with. Money and a sickly sort of love drive things from disappearance to kidnapping to murder, leaving Archer to clean up the mess. All in all, a decent first episode for this long-lived detective series. ****

Review- Macdonald, “The Moving Target”

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