Lew Archer became involved with a mentally disturbed guy from a wealthy family.
Violence followed latter whenever he showed up, but Archer strongly suspected it is not his fault, so the detective decided to interfere. Violence escalated.
My biggest and the only question about this installment is, "What the hell happened to Archer between the previous book and this one?" What transformed him from a typical tough PI:
into a preacher?
It never felt to me Archer did any kind of investigation. He preached. He preached about Lost Innocent Souls that he could not save. He preached about the innocence of different people. In his defense he did manage to get knocked out twice. These knock outs are the only reason this novel can be qualified as either noir, or hardboiled. Otherwise it fails at both.
Coming back to preaching, Archer is convinced everybody can be redeemed. Well I had a mild case of multiple personality disorder reading the book as Ross Macdonald himself makes a pretty good case of some people being way beyond redemption. As an example, Mrs. Hallman fully deserved everything she got and then some. I also did not have any brotherly feelings for the culprit who killed several people - unlike Archer. I can understand the motives for killing the first person, but the last victim definitely did not deserve to die.
Speaking about the culprit, his/her confession in the end was too drawn out and quite boring. Remember The Sign of Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and its seemingly endless background story at the end? I had a strong feeling of déjà vu reading that part of this book.
All in all this is the first book of the series which was a major disappointment for me. Three stars - from the lower range of the spectrum - is my rating.