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The Instant Enemy

PDF I don’t trust people who say they like mysteries.They seem to read for different reasons than me, not better or worse, I guess, but they’re a different species and I don’t know what to say to them.I picture grey-haired cat ladies with Agatha Christie fixations or overweight insurance salesmen obsessed with Sherlock Holmes minutiae.Or I think back to the first time I met one of my wife’s cousins.She saw I was reading The Secret History and said, “Oh, that looks great!I love whodunits!”

In turn, I stay away from the “mystery” aisles. I know little about Hammett, Chandler, etc. because of their weak and perhaps unsubstantiated connection to the genre.However, about fifteen years ago my friend Dan hooked me onto Ellroy and I worked through his entire catalog.And I’ve glanced, every now and then, in the direction of others who earn (or acquire while failing to earn) comparisons to Mr. E.Ross Macdonald, a writer of whom I had never heard until I saw a reference on goodreads last week, precedes Ellroy but nonetheless provided a welcome surprise.After reading my first Macdonald I’d feel comfortable recommending his work to the Ellroy-obsessed, and I don’t take that type of recommendation lightly.I could see the authors admiring each other’s work.

The Instant Enemy, one of a series of Lew Archer novels, catches fire within the first twenty pages.Mr. Archer, a weatherbeaten private detective, takes on a case in which he agrees to find the rebellious daughter of a wealthy, preening middle manager.In the process he encounters her broken boyfriend, a barren farm with a terrifying history, and a loaded family with too much to hide for long.Mr. Archer lives weary.He’s not a superhero and Macdonald’s prose mirrors the character’s steady, careful pace.Archer, it seems, has witnessed enough terror both to try and save his cases’ victims and to know sometimes people pursue their own demons straight to hell with full knowledge of exactly what they’re doing.

I read The Instant Enemy over a long weekend on a hot front porch, avoiding the sun, and the second I finished I requested more Macdonald from the local library system.In a couple weeks I return to my wife’s family’s house out east, and I’ll need books like this, so I’m glad to have found the author.I get the feeling I’ve missed more out there like him.

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