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Find A Victim (Lew Archer #5)

3.94  ·  Rating Details ·  725 Ratings  ·  70 Reviews
A Lew Archer novel, number 5 in the series.
Mass Market Paperback, 192 pages
Published December 1972 by Bantam Books (first published 1954)
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May 19, 2015 Evgeny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lew Archer picked up a hitchhiker dying from a gunshot wound. The guy died despite Archer's best effort, so the latter decided to poke around in the nearby small town where the victim was living. I am talking about a quiet peaceful small town where everybody not only knows everybody, but also relates to everybody. In fact at one point I had troubles remembering how every person was related to everybody else: and they all did.
small town

What did Arches find for being too nosy? Thugs who rearranged his face
Bill  Kerwin
May 20, 2007 Bill Kerwin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This is by no means the first good Lew Archer, but it is the first that feels like quintessential Archer to me, its characters confined to narrow psychological spaces and dwarfed by the immensity of family history.

Except for a barely relevant--though exciting--shootout with hijackers, everything in this novel contributes to the conclusion, and the last chapter is extraordinarily powerful and effective. Macdonald's portraits of the police chief of Los Cruces and his wife--good people enmeshed in
Mar 22, 2013 Jeff rated it really liked it
Shelves: who-done-it
Ross Macdonald is the one of originators of the hard boiled detective novel along with Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. Although his novels were written over 50 years ago, they still stand up with anything that's written today.

Find a Victim is one of the better entries in the Lew Archer series, even though his best work was to come (see The Doomsters, The Chill or The Underground Man).

Unlike some of today's private eyes (I'm looking at you Spenser), Archer wasn't afraid to get the crap kic
Dec 30, 2011 Tfitoby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: black-as-night
Good noir fun from a classic master of the genre

Read on the plane from Vienna to London

Lew Archer finds himself in a small Californian town near the Nevada border picking up a dead body by the side of the road. The town seems to be populated by angry and agressive people, all suspects, all ready to fight or f*ck at the drop of a hat. This is a case Archer could never resist!

A great read, only my second Archer novel and the differences between the two are astounding. MacDonald doesn't seem to hav
Apr 19, 2011 Kirk rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
More like Find a Plot, a smartass might say. Fortunately, my ass isn't that smart. I like my Archer like I like my women: sinewy, vaguely wicked, without an overabundance of exclamation points. This one reminded me of the last baloney sandwiched I downed: a little thin. It wasn't as bad as waking up naked next to an odiferous Audrina Patridge and realizing you have a bad taste in your mouth. Nope, not that bad. Just sorta like the Dali Lama's sex life: not much to talk about.

I blame the setting.
Jun 18, 2013 Joe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another great Lew Archer detective noir book from Ross Macdonald. This one really reminded me of "The Lady in the Lake" by Raymond Chandler because it took Archer out of his usual L.A. comfort zone and had him traipsing around in the countryside.

As this series goes on Archer becomes a more and more interesting character. The book begins with Archer finding a fatally shot man on the side of a road. Archer wants to find out who killed him. More accurately, Archer NEEDS to find out who killed him.
Apr 24, 2017 Gary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Getting better with each book. More action. Better action. Less explication at the end. Scenery for background, not to look seedy. Real psychology if amateur. Still some loose ends as you go - not the ideal detective story yet. Much more sense of Archer as a real person.
Lukasz Pruski
"The sky turned lime-white all along its edges, then flared in jukebox colors. The sun appeared in my rearview mirror like a sudden bright coin ejected from a machine. The chameleon desert mocked the sky, and the joshua trees leaned crazily into the rushing dawn."

Find a Victim (1954) is the fifth novel in the Archer series (I am still in the author's early period in my "Re-read Ross Macdonald" project). The plot takes us to central California, to the fictional city of Las Cruces, which would be
Aug 11, 2010 Mark rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dashiell Hammett, Ross MacDonald, and Dave Goodis are heads above the rest of the classic crime novelists. I'd easily take MacDonald over Chandler any day. Close runners up to these, and still above Chandler for me, are James M. Cain, James Crumley, and Jim Thompson, though each of those are have one foot in a particular subset of crime fiction that involves the problem of the grift or the confidence scheme, and to complicate things further, this often involves their own emotional blindspots tak ...more
Jul 05, 2011 Randy rated it it was amazing
Archer fell into the case quite by accident. While driving on a lonely road north of Bakersfield late at night, he barely spotted the arm waving weakly from the ditch. The man was unconscious by the time he got to him and had a bullet wound in the chest. There was a lot of blood.

Archer bundled him into his car and took off. The first place he found open was a motel. The owners were there, the manager having not been in all week, and the husband was reluctant at first to help him. The wife called
Feb 11, 2013 AC rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-mystery
This short book is #5 -- I've resolved to try to read the series in order. Millar (Macdonald) himself said that Doomsters (#7) was his breakthrough book, so one more till I get there:

This book has some flaws, which led me for a while to toy with giving this three-stars. It's a bit melodramatic in the middle and those fight scenes are just corny. The writing doesn't have quite the sparkle of some of the earlier books - it's a touch flatter.

But the strengt
Felix Hayman
Jun 27, 2011 Felix Hayman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ross Macdonald at his prime.His small town California is mean, dirty and poor and the people are equally mean, nasty and selfish.Unlike Chandler many of Macdonald's characters have no redeeming features whatsoever and it is a glimpse into a time, the 1950's, when people were expendable above cash, above morality and we all know that private eyes were either above the moral, in the extreme.
In this novel the moral is don't ever stop for a hitchiker who dies on you, don't ever get involved in famil
Oddly enough, what I like most about this book is probably the relationship dynamics: they're extremely realistic. Somehow, Ross Macdonald was even able to get inside the heads of women, which is usually difficult for men to do with much accuracy. I could completely believe that his female characters in this book were real people with real motives. (view spoiler)
It also w
Jul 31, 2009 Gabriel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: shadow-man
I see this book as the turning point in the Archer series: Macdonald twisting the plot in on itself just enough to form a figure eight (symbol of the infinite) instead of the more traditional loop (begin with a crime, end with its solution). With this discovery, Macdonald's plots get a whole lot more interesting.

Prior to this novel, you see Macdonald either settling for Chandlerian confusion or working things out in entirely predictable ways, but after this, you may or may not know what is comi
Jan 01, 2017 Sonia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-books
The latest in my Archer binge is extra special for (1) mentioning Portland (where a bank was robbed) and (2) containing a monkey puzzle tree.
Jan 25, 2017 Leslie rated it liked it
Shelves: mysteries, owned
This entry in the Lew Archer series was a bit too hardboiled for my tastes. However, the ending was surprisingly heartrending so maybe it deserves another star... ...more
Lynn Cullivan
Dec 28, 2016 Lynn Cullivan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Classic hard boiled detective novel. Sort of put your mind on hold and go for it.
Mimi Smartypants
Mar 22, 2017 Mimi Smartypants rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
of all the many times Lew Archer has been punched, this book may contain the best description of it: "My legs forgot about me."
Jim Thomas
Apr 17, 2015 Jim Thomas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2015
I think anyone who likes good writing should read Macdonald. Like Chandler, in particular, it really doesn't matter "who dunnit" as the interaction of his characters within their milieu.

This novel is fairly early Macdonald where he was still developing his style. His later works are considered more "literary" or some such nonsense. I suppose the thing from The Galton Case and after may be better but for all intents and purposes I liked this book a lot. A good solid plot with a nice twist I saw c
Tom Stamper
Aug 11, 2014 Tom Stamper rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Archer is out of town heading for San Francisco when he finds a bleeding man on the side of the road. The consequences of that discovery leads him into the kind of complicated and interesting case that we have grown accustomed to. MacDonald's 5th Archer novel continues the theme of family secrets and petty thieves linked together by circumstances. There are very few innocents in this dirty world and as usual Archer risks his life to bring in the bad guys for very little money and hardly any grat ...more
Dec 04, 2011 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
MacDonald makes ample use of metaphor and personification that cause his lackluster plot to slide the reader's literary canal and allows his story to digest much like a Thanksgiving dinner. Archer is drawn into this mystery through a chance meeting on a road. A severely wounded man rises up from the highway's shoulder and flags the private eye down. Soon, Archer is working on a missing, hijacked truck, a murder spree, and the wife of the local sheriff.

Through it all, Archer gets beat up, knocked
Aaron Martz
Nov 01, 2013 Aaron Martz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One thing you'll never get in a Macdonald mystery is a shortage of memorable characters. This one, in fact, has way too many. So many that it's difficult, even during the lengthy monologues of summation in the concluding chapters, to keep them all straight. There are not one but three femme fatales and at least four heavies (one of them being the ubiquitous hick sheriff). The initial crime seems to be the robbery of a truck carrying bootleg bourbon, but it quickly turns into murder followed by a ...more
Feb 19, 2014 Mic rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love Ross Macdonald's writing style. Quotes!

"She didn't look like any motel manager I had ever seen. More likely an actress who hadn't quite made the grade down south, or a very successful amateur tart on the verge of turning pro. Whatever her business was, there had to be sex in it. she was as full
of sex as a grape is full of juice, and so young that it hadn't begun to sour."

"She swaggered along through the lower depths of the city as if she was drunk with her own desireability."

"his living-
Jul 14, 2014 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
FIND A VICTIM. (1954). Ross Macdonald. ****.
Lew Archer, while on a drive up to Sacramento, sees a man lying by the side of the road. Being Lew, he backs up to see what’s going on. When he gets to the man, he is barely alive. It turned out that the victim was the driver of a semi-truckload of bourbon, which had been hi-jacked. The driver never made it, but he was known locally. Also local was the owner of the shipping company and the customer for the load of hootch. It seems that Archer had once
Mar 31, 2011 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lew picks up a ghastly hitchhiker and finds himself drawn into the web of a corrupt county.

I enjoyed this book well enough, but after "The Ivory Grin" it was a bit of a letdown. Ross Macdonald's characteristic writing style and unexpected metaphors are present, and the plot is good. However, I found it to be a bit simplistic in terms of figuring out the plot. On that level it was more like an Agatha Christie mystery. The big dumb guy who is the obvious suspect is obviously not. Then, as the boo
James Castle
I think that Ross Macdonald was a good writer who revitalized an important American genre. However, this is not one of his better books. Although it has flashes of the Macdonald touch - supple, funny dialogue, a witty sense of pessimism - the book becomes entangled in a confusing plot. Furthermore, the number of traumatic head injuries that Lew Archer sustained stretched my credibility: it seems like in virtually every chapter someone is punching him in the head, he is falling on his head, he is ...more
Jan 27, 2015 Slinkyboy rated it liked it
Hmm... this one's pretty grim.

I think I'll need to take a break from Lew Archer for a bit.

Some great moments though:

"He smiled with soft malice. His changeable mouth, both sensitive and brutal, tempted my fist the way a magnet tempts iron."

"She didn't look like any motel manager I had ever seen. More likely an actress who hadn't quite made the grade down south, or a very successful amateur tart on the verge of turning pro."

"'You have been kind to me, though, last night, and again today. I can't
the gift
basic problem is i like almost everything ross macdonald did: this one counted is because it has such a bittersweet resolution, when indeed you follow the title. it is more the web and weave of emotional connections of past and present, child and parent, than just a mystery to solve. i like how arbitrary, how inevitably, lew archer is drawn into this case. and when the motives of the suspect, of family, of other characters, emerge, it is not so much a revealed plot but the latent plot that resol ...more
Oct 13, 2010 Ben rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I hadn't read any Ross Macdonald before, but he reminds me quite a bit of Raymond Chandler. The writing is stripped down, without the bloat a lot of more modern novels have. But Macdonald manages to use some very strong language--it the midst of a straight forward description, he'll throw in a clever and unexpected turn of phrase or description, which grabbed me. Lew Archer is quite firmly in the mold of Philip Marlowe, and the story, while containing some twists and turns, is merely strong. The ...more
David Everett
Jan 12, 2010 David Everett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of MacDonald's best. The setting (a small town off the beaten path on the way to Sacramento) and the underlying story (a highjacked truck) set this one apart. Like many of the Lew Archer novels, Find a Victim is highly cinemeatic, though the brilliant turns of phrase would undoubtedly be lost in most productions (Archer is always in the first person, but I find voice-overs rarely work well). The sense of looming danger and dark secrets is engrossing. In true MacDonald fashion, the reader is ...more
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Ross Macdonald is the pseudonym of the American-Canadian writer of crime fiction Kenneth Millar. He is best known for his series of hardboiled novels set in southern California and featuring private detective Lew Archer.

Millar was born in Los Gatos, California, and raised in his parents' native Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, where he started college. When his father abandoned his family unexpectedly,
More about Ross Macdonald...

Other Books in the Series

Lew Archer (1 - 10 of 20 books)
  • The Name Is Archer
  • The Moving Target
  • The Drowning Pool (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard)
  • The Way Some People Die
  • The Ivory Grin
  • The Barbarous Coast
  • The Doomsters
  • The Galton Case
  • The Wycherly Woman
  • The Zebra-Striped Hearse

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“She didn't look like any motel manager I had ever seen. More likely an actress who hadn't quite made the grade down south, or a very successful amateur tart on the verge of turning pro. Whatever her business was, there had to be sex in it. She was as full of sex as a grape is full of juice, and so young that it hadn't begun to sour.” 2 likes
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