A wealthy-looking woman
came to hire Lew Archer to find her missing maid who supposedly stole some of her jewelry.
She sounded fishy for everybody with intellect higher than that of a six-year-old child, so Archer had his reservations about taking the assignment, but it sounded simple and harmless enough - he was to just tail the maid
and report on the people she saw to his client - so he accepted. As a special bonus for accepting the questionable assignment he gets to witness and participate in the full set of noir tropes first-hand.
Please note that the only reason I talk about standard tropes here is to avoid spoilers as much as possible. Ross Macdonald can and does make them all look fresh and exciting. Femme fatale? I felt bad for her; she was just a woman trying to survive in a hostile environment. Tough gangster? I cannot say anything without giving huge spoilers, but take my word for it: he is not usual run-of-the-mill noir gangster. Families with skeletons in the closet?
Plenty of them in here and I think the author is the grand master when it comes to this particular trope; he might have not invented it, but he most definitely perfected this one.
This novel made me understand something which puzzled me for a long time. As much as I like classic noir I really could not care less about modern thrillers despite the fact that these two genres are fairly close related to each other, like cousins. Most of the modern thrillers are as straightforward as a shortest path between two points in Euclidean geometry. The hero moves in straight line literally crashing everything which stands in his/her way until the (happy) end. I have troubles suspending my disbelief as I know this is not how real life works.
Take this book. It took me about three fourths of it just to understand what is going on - people with no connections to each other kept dying for seemingly no reason. This is coming from a person who played guess the villain with Agatha Christie books with some degree of success. I also challenge anybody to call this particular ending Happily Ever After and keep a straight face.
So to summarize: this is the second book of the series in the row which confirmed my opinion of Ross Macdonald as a classic of noir.