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The Galton Case (Lew Archer #8)

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  1,566 ratings  ·  93 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 (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
77th out of 491 books — 568 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
201st out of 716 books — 804 voters

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Community Reviews

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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
Bill  Kerwin

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
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
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
Harry Kane
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
Aug 29, 2011 Mike rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
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
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 5 of 5 stars
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.
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
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
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. .
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
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.
Ian Kirkpatrick
“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
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
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
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.
One of the best. The maturing of Archer... I mean, Macdonald (see my comments on The Doomster)... continues
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
Jason Shaffner
One of the best entries in the Lew Archer series, yet I will be scratching my head over the last 30 pages for a while... As usual, the writing is brilliant and several characters sparkle. And the standard Archer features are here, too -- getting his skull bashed in, misjudging a key player's true character, cracking wise, chugging Gibsons. The plot is -- to put it gently -- overly complex and unrealistic. However, it moves so swiftly and elegantly that you stick with it, waiting for the next twi ...more
Fue mi primera novela de Ross MacDonald, y fue todo un descubrimiento.
Buena novela que aparte del caso que trata a resolver, describe con claridad e incluso con crudeza los bajos fondos, la mafia, los barrios ricos, etc. Numerosos personajes interesantes sobre todos los femeninos: cuarentonas y jovencitas enamoradas, prostitutas sin remordimientos, mujeres con pasado que intentan olvidarlo. Los masculinos son menos interesantes: joven inteligente con ambiciones, hombres con pasado y problemas d
Noir's Fitzgerald.
I came across the name Ross MacDonald in a discussion of classic noir. How is it that I had never heard his name before? Sometimes I feel like I've spent the last 15 years trying to find someone half as good as Hammett and Chandler. I hate the Agatha Christe locked-room bullshit. Then I hear the name MacDonald mentioned favorably. One bit of overwrought marketing ever said something like "along with Hammett and Chandler, MacDonald forms the trio that put American noir on the map". I think most o ...more
Macdonald, Ross. THE GALTON CASE. (1959). ****.
I recently came across a list compiled by John Connolly and Declan Hughes entitled: “Ten Crime Novels You Must Read Before You Die” (or something like that). These are both fine writers and I was interested to see what they had come up with. they did indeed have ten titles in bold print, but they cheated and had about fifteen to twenty more as second thoughts. In their second thoughts list, I found two Macdonald novels that I hadn’t read – even tho
Well, this book reminded me a whole lot of The Doomsters, except a bit better than that book. A few of the same plot devices are in common, and sort of the overall tone is the same. However, this one made me actually care what happened, and surprised me a few times. Really, the plot is twistier than...I don't know, something really twisty. Every time I thought I had a handle on what happened, things would twist the opposite way.
(view spoiler)
A couple months back Gillian Flynn name-checked Ross Macdonald's work. Let me check. Yes, here it is.

My home library has a shelf devoted entirely to Macdonald. You can pick up almost any book in his sun-dazzled Lew Archer series and enjoy mid-century California noir like no other.

She's right, and reading MacDonald again after the Flynn catalog highlights the former's influence on the latter. Flynn's not derivative, don't get me wrong. She just knows good w
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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
The Drowning Pool (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard) The Chill The Moving Target The Way Some People Die The Blue Hammer

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