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The Galton Case (Lew Archer #8)

4.08  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,866 Ratings  ·  111 Reviews
Almost twenty years have passed since Anthony Galton disappeared, along with a suspiciously streetwise bride and several thousand dollars of his family's fortune. Now Anthony's mother wants him back and has hired Lew Archer to find him. What turns up is a headless skeleton, a boy who claims to be Galton's son, and a con game whose stakes are so high that someone is still w ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published November 26th 1996 by Vintage Crime/Black Lizard (first published 1959)
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The Big Sleep by Raymond ChandlerThe Maltese Falcon by Dashiell HammettThe Long Goodbye by Raymond ChandlerFarewell, My Lovely by Raymond ChandlerThe Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain
Best Hardboiled PI & Noir
61st out of 522 books — 634 voters
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg LarssonThe Big Sleep by Raymond ChandlerThe Maltese Falcon by Dashiell HammettThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark HaddonMurder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Detective Fiction
174th out of 768 books — 903 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,893)
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Bill  Kerwin
Feb 27, 2016 Bill Kerwin rated it it was amazing

This is the first great Lew Archer novel, and it has all the important Ross Macdonald themes: money, family betrayal, a masquerade, and a crime in the present linked to a crime that goes back a generation.

There are two things that make this novel great. The first is that, in diction, style and plot structure, it is as carefully realized as any poem. Every line of dialogue, every bit of description, contributes to the beauty of the whole. It is almost without flaw: for me, the only memorable blo
Jun 04, 2015 Evgeny rated it really liked it
A wealthy couple disowned their only son who was too liberal for them. Twenty years passed and the guy seemed to disappear from the face of the Earth. Now his dying mother wanted to have reconciliation with him so she hired Lew Archer through her attorney for seemingly hopeless lost person search. Archer actually did not even have time to agree to the job before the first dead body dropped by to say hi.

My biggest complaint about the previous book was the actual lack of investigation by Archer. T
Mar 23, 2016 F.R. rated it really liked it
For a writer, reading Ross MacDonald can be an intimidating experience destined to cause vast amounts of envy. The simplicity and yet stark beauty of his prose; the sheer perfect poetry of his descriptions; the way he can do so much with just a few lines of dialogue – like his one time friend and mentor, Raymond Chandler, MacDonald is able to lift genre fiction to a place where it becomes literature.

The Galton Case sees MacDonald’s private eye, Lew Archer, investigate a twenty year old missing
Sep 17, 2014 Darwin8u rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
Ross Macdonald definitely dances down the same literary streets as Hammett and Chandler. This hardboiled detective novel, the 8th in the Lew Archer series, feels like it was written in one continuous sitting (that is a good thing).

'The Galton Case' has a naked narrative intensity that is well-supported by its witty dialogue and California Noir setting. Macdonald is one of those authors who is so spare and bare that it is hard NOT to be impressed by the clean, minimalist architecture of his writ
Harry Kane
Jun 07, 2012 Harry Kane rated it it was amazing
Some authors I read for the plot. Some for the characters. Some for the atmosphere. And some for the prose. Simenon is for atmosphere. Ross is for prose. Like many others I'm reading the Archer books chronologically, starting with the first one. There are many signs in the first books that Ross Macdonald is a phenomenon, but generally it was like a more insecure Chandler, surrounding himself like an octopus with ink with too many strained metaphors and far too poetic descriptions. Not as much as ...more
May 17, 2016 George rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-mystery
Τελευταία φορά που διάβασα βιβλίο του Ρος Μακντόναλντ ήταν τον Μάρτιο του 2014, ενώ και γενικά Αμερικάνικα αστυνομικά νουάρ των δεκαετιών του '50 και του '60 είχα επίσης καιρό να διαβάσω. Όπως ήταν λογικό, μου έλειψε πολύ το εξαιρετικό και μοναδικό στιλ του συγγραφέα, που μπορώ να πω ότι είναι στο ίδιο επίπεδο με τον μαιτρ του είδους, Ρέιμοντ Τσάντλερ.

Η υπόθεση Γκάλτον είναι μια άκρως μπερδεμένη ιστορία απάτης και εγκλήματος, με τον ψύχραιμο και άνετο Λου Άρτσερ να αναλαμβάνει να βγάλει μια άκρη
Aug 29, 2011 Mike rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone

I read my first Lew Archer novel just a couple of weeks ago and was very impressed. "The Galton Case" reinforces all of the good things that I said previously; "Ross Macdonald" could write extremely well. The prose is distinctive, powerful and sensuous. Where else does the detective get hired (page 9) because an old friend claims, "...I trust you to handle this affair with some degree of urbanity"? Urbanity! It wasn't a common expression in the 40s, 50s or any decade. And how about this lush par
Jul 31, 2014 Joe rated it really liked it
This may be my favorite Lew Archer novel yet. The plot is complex without being convoluted. The prose is sparse yet elegant and beautiful. The protagonist is flawed yet fascinating. The villains all have understandable motivations and feel REAL.

This book has some real stakes for Archer and without spoiling anything he is forever changed by the time the book is done.

Some complain about this one having a few too many twists but Macdonald earned every one of them. This was has the holy trinity of n
Nov 16, 2015 Larry rated it really liked it
Ross Macdonald wrote about money, family, and betrayal in twenty Lew Archer novels. Archer, a retired police sergeant, works as a private investigator in Southern California in the late 40s through the early 60s. This book sees Archer searching for a wealthy family's outcast son, missing for over twenty years. Hired by the family lawyer, whose thug of a house man is murdered shortly after Archer is hired, the family's for which Archer now works is every bit as unpleasant as the one that hired Ph ...more
Jul 03, 2009 Gabriel rated it really liked it
Shelves: shadow-man
The Galton Case actually shares many genes with its ancestor, The Moving Target, the first Archer book. This one uses the same structure and the same private eye, but the big difference here is that The Galton Caseapplies James's "lucid reflector" strategy to Archer, yielding something far removed from Chandler's neon-tube metaphors and half-serious gangster slang. Instead, it yields something much closer to the "literary novel" (read: "psychoanalytic novel") of the last eighty years. Expect Cha ...more
Aug 08, 2007 Eric rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Mystery fans, detective fiction buffs
Fantastic. MacDonald clearly steps out from the shadow of Raymond Chandler with this book. Less cynical and conflicted than Chandler's Philip Marlowe, Lew Archer fits the template of the jaded private eye, but with a more resigned, is-what-it-is outlook on life and corruption. The writing style is less dense and elaborate than Chandler's, but still effective in its bleak starkness. A great novel, not just a great detective novel.
Dec 16, 2009 Greg rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery
This is one of the best plotted mysteries in detective fiction I have ever read! The writing is very clean and elegant to with some excellent turns of phrase for genre fiction!
Jim Thomas
Oct 16, 2015 Jim Thomas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Every Ross Macdonald fan probably has their own favorite but I tend to see his writings as Lawrence Block (I think it's Block)all being the same book with just different details and characters. Funny but true to an extent. However, I think Block went on to say it is one great book! Reading this the 2nd time through reminded me that this is one of my favorites just like another one I re-read the same week, The Chill. If you want to read something in the style of Chandler or Hammett, Macdonald is ...more
the gift
later addition: crime fiction as comfort reading? well something like that, great plot, promises and cynicism both reversed, play the game. it has been some time since the first reading, but it definitely holds up. raymond chandler approvingly claims dashiell hammet brought crime out of the salon and down to the streets... i would suggest macdonald brought crime into the living room...

first review: this is a bourgeois fairy tale, mistaken identity, mistaken childhood, of being a prince or a paup
If you don't especially like the Ross Macdonald novels you keep reading, don't give up because eventually you will find one you really enjoy! For me it was this.

While it wasn't at all the main point, a lot of this book seemed to be about how it sucks to be a woman. It did an amazing job of showing a changing California, and I loved seeing this view of my home state in a transitional stage before my own day. Plus an awesome plot that kept ahead of me without dirty tricks and Archer in top form. G
Oct 01, 2010 Susan rated it really liked it
Audible. I listened to this book while driving to Sacramento and then to San Francisco. Macdonald is always a reliable, lean, mean read. The Galton Case is set along the coast west from Redwood City, in San Francisco, over to Sacramento. Late 40s and early 50s. Not only a good story but gave me such a wonderful sense of driving through history. Drives (and listens) don't get much more satisfying. And I'll always give Ross Macdonald a 4. Can't do what he does any better. .
Maggie Anton
Apr 21, 2016 Maggie Anton rated it really liked it
As a novelist myself I always appreciate excellent plotting, and this is especially important in a murder mystery. I foundThe Galton Case to have one of the finest, most carefully crafted plots I've read. And I'm a long-time mystery fan. I actually went back and reread the book to see how Ross Macdonald set up all the clues and red herrings, how he slipped in crucial facts so nonchalantly that they were easy to miss the first time around. Yet at the end, all the puzzle pieces are there and fit t ...more
May 27, 2015 Tom rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery-crime
It's been said about RM that his books are not about crime, but about sin. The distinction resists easy explanation, but on a gut level, it seems like a fitting one, particularly in this book.

This is my second crack at RM, after a 25+ yr interval, and I have pretty much same reaction as I did to first 3 -- actually 2 1/2 -- of his novels I read: good stories with plausible but not predictable plot twists, distinct narrative voice (no small feat in a genre stuffed with stoical tough guys), and a
May 22, 2016 Steven rated it really liked it
L.A Private eye Lew Archer takes on a case for the Galton family to try and find Anthony Galton missing for more than twenty years, he doesn't have high hopes and thinks it's a waste of time but follows through anyway on bits and pieces of information that first sends him to San Francisco to pick up a trail, where we go from here is classic detective fiction territory with a complex plot to rival Chandler or Hammett, the mystery/suspense of a Hitchcock movie and a mixed bag of characters where n ...more
Jun 13, 2013 Jim rated it it was amazing
My first Lew Archer novel. What a delicious start to a long plow through all the LEw Archer novels. Lew Archer is a ghost, barely described, so far about 6 feet , one-ninety and plaed some high school football. After that, nothing.

No Watson, Archie or Meyer to banter with. A little sardonic comedy. But the bok is packed with grea writing.

At random...

"She exerted them, and got up, and walked away from me and her fear."

"She kept her finger pressed on the button until her lunch arrived. That was a
David Monroe
Very good. Probably the best of the Archer books I've read. It works on three levels. A breezy noir mystery with the usual Macdonald trops being wraped up by Wold Newton family member Lew Archer; a fairly (especially for 1959) nuanced and complex psychological study; and for those paying attention (or those in the 21st Century with access to Wikipedia) Macdonald's thin veneer of autobiographically retracing his own steps from Canada to Chicago to California.
Scott Cox
I just finished reading this murder mystery as part of a book club ("California Interpreted") selection. It was a typical murder mystery read, e.g. fast, page-turner; try to guess whodunit, etc. However the novel had the added intrigue of trying to find out what the California place names represented. For example, I think that Luna Bay = Half Moon Bay, CA. And I think that Santa Teresa is probably Santa Barbara, CA. Also, the new SF nightclub called "The Listening Ear" is probably a reference to ...more
Oct 12, 2015 Bob rated it really liked it
All of the Lew Archer mysteries by Ross Macdonald are very good, and all but two or three are excellent. This one is from 1959, still rather early in the series. By this point, Macdonald had developed a mature voice of his own, and wasn't just imitating Raymond Chandler. It's not one of my four or five favorite Lew Archer novels, as there is still, to my taste, too much violence and too much about gangsters.

The basic plot is very good and compelling. Twenty-two years earlier the only son of a
Ian Kirkpatrick
May 27, 2014 Ian Kirkpatrick rated it really liked it
“The Galton Case” is the first Ross Macdonald novel I have read, but it won’t be the last. I still get a buzz from discovering an author whose work moves me. Macdonald’s work spans from the mid-forties to the early eighties, but many critics feel that this novel, originally published in 1959, marked a shift into a deeper and more complex phase.

Macdonald was often compared to Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Indeed his detective Lew Archer owes his name to Sam Spade’s murdered colleague Mil
May 11, 2016 Kenneth rated it it was amazing
This was the first Ross Macdonald book I read and it's still one of my favorites. The true test of a great detective novel is whether you can reread it -- and I've reread this one four or five times. I agree with another poster here -- Macdonald is one of the best American novelists of the 20th Century, period, regardless of genre, and Chandler doesn't even come close. Required reading for anyone who loves real noir fiction.
Wilde Sky
Jan 30, 2014 Wilde Sky rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A detective searches for a missing heir.

This book is a real page turner, with a plot full of twists and turns. The writing style, scene description and characters all grabbed my attention. The final twist at the end was good.

If you like fast paced / complex thrillers (such as those by Raymond Chandler) you’ll probably enjoy this book.
Ryan Potter
Nov 19, 2009 Ryan Potter rated it really liked it
Great pacing and an intricate plot that kept me guessing the entire way. I thought I had the "whodunit" part all figured, but boy, was I wrong! Wonderful mystery novel. Highly recommended.
Jason Horton
May 11, 2016 Jason Horton rated it really liked it
I'm a pretty big fan of pulp & noir and over the years I've read tons of Chandler and plenty of everyone else, so I was pretty surprised, at the tender age of 43, to finally have the name Ross McDonald pop up on my radar as one of the 'big three'. Talk about blind spot. I started with The Chill, and instantly knew why some call him the best of the big three. Cracking plot and a protagonist who's just a bit more human than most hard boiled dicks. I dived right on into The Galton Case and.. wo ...more
Jul 02, 2013 AC rated it it was amazing
Shelves: crime-mystery
One of the best. The maturing of Archer... I mean, Macdonald (see my comments on The Doomster)... continues
Dec 09, 2014 Wilson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My favourite paragraph in this very good novel: "The tight-hipped waitress who brought my whisky and water was interchangeable with nightclub girls anywhere. Even her parts looked interchangeable. But the audience was different from other nightclub crowds. Most of them were young people with serious expressions on their faces. A high proportion of the girls had short straight hair through which they ran their fingers from time to time. Many of the boys had longer hair than the girls, but they di ...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
  • Find a Victim
  • The Barbarous Coast
  • The Doomsters
  • The Wycherly Woman
  • The Zebra-Striped Hearse

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