The late sixties feel almost like yesterday compared to times when Raymond Chandler writings took place. We have sex, drugs (LSD is mentioned here), and rock-n-roll. Lew Archer is hired by a typical middle-class suburban couple to find their typical rebellious troubled runaway teen daughter who took a shotgun as a memento with her.
It seems she ran off to her equally troubled - and psychotic to boot - boyfriend. This innocent investigation leads to a surprising number of dead bodies and a very complicated and convoluted (I am using this word as a praise here) mystery.
The first thing to note about the novel is the very high number of dead bodies I already mentioned, probably the highest so far in the series if you count the bodies both in past and present; the past plays an important part in the book as always touching on dark secrets of several generations of different families.
Ross Macdonald is one of the grand masters of mystery - both traditional and noir - sadly mostly forgotten these days. Not only he can and does create a good mystery, his descriptions make southern California of the end of sixties come alive. Most of his characters felt like living breathing real people. While reading the novel I began feeling bad for the teen couple, then I felt really repulsed by them, and then I began to understand them. It takes a real master to pull off such great characterization.
I would like to mention I was really impressed by Archer's efforts to do everything he could and then some to save the teens from themselves.
I gave 4 stars to this novel initially, but after rereading my own review I realized it needs to be rated higher, so 5 stars
is it. Runaway Train would be an obvious and excellent listening choice as a background music for reading: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NRtvqT_wMeY
The review is dedicated to the noble effort by good people who try to help runaway kids all over the world.