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The Drowning Pool (Lew Archer #2)

4.01  ·  Rating Details ·  3,492 Ratings  ·  129 Reviews
When a millionaire matriarch is found floating face down in the family pool, the prime suspects are her good-for-nothing son and his seductive teenage daughter. In The Drowning Pool, Lew Archer takes this case in the Los Angeles suburbs and encounters a moral wasteland of corporate greed and family hatred--and sufficient motive for a dozen murders.
Published 2002 by Blackstone Audiobooks (first published 1950)
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This is a swimming pool:
Swimming Pool
What is it good for? You can use it to show your social status (I challenge anybody to find a mansion of a really rich person without one). You can drown the old ladies in one - the kind which everybody hates and who sits on piles of money her close relatives can really use. Finally you can just swim in there. Let us talk about the second case.

Lew Archer is a private detective who makes his humble living mostly collecting evidence for divorce cases. This time a frightened
Bill  Kerwin
Jan 19, 2016 Bill Kerwin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This is the second book in the Lew Archer series, and with it MacDonald has produced the first of his many first-class mysteries. Archer is hired to to track down a writer of blackmail letters, but soon the waters become murkier: someone drowns in an actual pool, and Archer's investigation of the murder reveals how the survivors are caught in an undertow of family wounds and crime.

Archer shows us three effective portraits of women: an upper class lady who tightly controls her passions, her haunt
Sep 20, 2014 Tfitoby rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: black-as-night
An easy read, full of descriptions of seedy places and seedier goings on, Archer is always quick with a quip and a smart simile or metaphor but it all feels so perfunctory; twist here, contrivance there, two-faced dame, crooked police, lying client, woman in peril, a couple of thugs for the protagonist to beat up, corporate mogul villain, two separate plots tie magically together by the end. Not a classic by a mile.
Cathy DuPont
Oct 31, 2012 Cathy DuPont rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’m such a fan of hard-boiled; can’t seem to get enough of it. This is only my second Ross Macdonald and enjoyed it as much as the first. That translates to a lot, mucho, beaucoup, πολλά, multus, הרבה, viele!

It’s the writing, I know, so clean, sparse is the word I like to use. The dialogue is on target, always, the plot is such that the reader is never sure who the bad guys are since they keep flipping, excepting Lew Archer, P.I., of course, private investigator extraordinaire.

While other P.I.’
Anthony Vacca
Jun 02, 2016 Anthony Vacca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A definite improvement over The Moving Target, this second Lew Archer outing has all the hallmarks of a quality PI mystery: blackmail, a dysfunctional family with money and a lifetime of grudges against one another, murder, gangsters, a femme fatale, corporate greed, a dubious doctor, dirty cops, bludgeonings and druggings, and a daisy-chain of hidden motives, buried secrets and tragic misunderstandings leading to an inevitable outcome where no one is innocent and the guilty are only all too hum ...more
Ed [Redacted]
Another good, very good in fact, novel from Macdonald. About equal in quality with The Moving Target. The plotting is adequate, the story moves along nicely. Good dialog, etc. etc. The best thing about the first two novels is the character of Lew Archer. Archer is the epitome of the hard boiled, tough talking, wise cracking private detective. For an example, I will turn to a page randomly for a wisecrack*.

Archer, upon confronting someone he had shot in one arm earlier in the book, "I swung the
Mar 23, 2016 F.R. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’m still fairly new to the world of Ross Macdonald and Lew Archer, but I’ve greatly enjoyed what I’ve read so far. This one starts with poison-pen letters and speeds quickly to dead bodies, femme fatales and gangsters. Of course, this being Macdonald, there’s a lot more psychological insight than one would normally find in this type of thriller. Pacy, well plotted with great descriptions and synonyms, this book is up there with Chandler – and, in my world, there’s no higher praise than that.
Nancy Oakes
Maybe a 3.75 on this one. The Drowning Pool is Ross Macdonald's second book in his Lew Archer series, but it's my first foray into this author's work. After this book, I think that Archer is a guy I will enjoy reading more about. With eighteen series novels and two short story collections, there's a lot about this world-weary gumshoe to explore.

Lew Archer is called upon to investigate an anonymous poison pen letter sent to his client, Maude Slocum. Maude's beyond worried about her mother-in-law,
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
This is the second novel by Ross Macdonald I've read and I'm not really impressed. He can write - there are some great descriptions, some witty observations and quips, even a few similes that aspire to Chandlerian status. But the plot is all over the place and I'm not sure the prose makes up for it as it does in Chandler's best novels. There's a lot of woman-hating dressed up as condescending chivalry and Macdonald's depiction of a pair of crypto-gays (he never comes right out and says that's wh ...more
Sep 17, 2011 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
More Ross Macdonald. More Lew Archer. More great American crime/detective writing.

I've read three novels and a collection of short fiction my Mr. Macdonald (nee' Kenneth Millar) now and I remain impressed. I'm still shocked that I had been unaware of this author (except for one excellent short story) for so long - thank you Goodreads! Whether he is writing in s style that reminds one of Dashiell Hammet (some of the early short fiction) or in his fully-developed style of later years, he is an exc
Sep 19, 2016 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: noir
"I felt like a lonely cat, an aging tom ridden by obscure rage, looking for torn-ear trouble. I clipped that pitch off short & threw it away. Night streets were my territory, and would be till I rolled in the last gutter."

Another excellent Lew Archer novel.
The second of Ross Macdonald's full-length novels about the adventures of private eye Lew Archer - think a more introverted version of Philip Marlowe and you're not far off - sees him journeying to a Southern Californian resort town going through an urban renewal financed by a local oil baron. The story's main conflict revolves around a series of blackmail letters and mysterious deaths afflicting a dispossessed upper-class family that happens to oppose said renewal as a consequence of old money ...more
Ben Winch
I can see why this is a classic – on the level of craft it’s quite formidable – but it just didn’t sock me in the guts like Goodis or Thompson, and its debt to Chandler is a little too obvious. Still, I’ll bet Macdonald’s dependable: I’ve only read one other Archer novel but it was much like this one, dull and brilliant in equal measure, and so smooth I slid to its end without pause. In places, true, he overplays his hand, gets a little too poetic and lapses out of character, but when he gets it ...more
Phillip Thurlby
Dec 11, 2013 Phillip Thurlby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of Classic Crime
For me, as should be the case for all crime writers and readers, I use the holy grail that is Raymond Chandler as a measure of an Author's quality.

This is unfair for most authors as the quality that Chandler created in his Marlowe Mysteries is something beyond the reaches of much less than a deity. However, one of the closest contenders is Ross MacDonald.

I first read this book when I was in University and I will admit that its brilliance escaped me at the time. I knew it was good, but I could no
Sean Brennan
Feb 27, 2014 Sean Brennan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
I actually prefer the writing of MacDonald to Chandler, albeit Marlowe and Archer are not just cut from the same cloth they could possibly have been separated con-joined twins. MacDonald himself can finish the review, because this single paragraph contains all you one needs to know. Excellent.

I felt like a lonely cat, an aging tom ridden by obscure rage, looking for torn-ear trouble. I clipped that pitch off short and threw it away. Night streets were my territory, and would be till I rolled in
Unlike the recent Thompson book The Grifters (set in the same time period and locations) which I found a bit too Dostoevsky-like, Ross MacDonald delivers well crafted, excellently plotted novels that leave one little to doubt as to the skill of this author. Many a writer of mystery/crime novels have MacDonald on their favorites reading list (I researched this, and in fact came to MacDonald because of this).

Unlike Burke who brings a certain sense of literature to his Robicheaux novels, MacDonald'
M.L. Rudolph
Dec 05, 2011 M.L. Rudolph rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: who-done-ems
1950. Maude Slocum opens this tale at the doorway to Lew Archer's office. "Thirty-five and still in the running," the detective surmises. Maude is scared. She's intercepted a letter to her husband calling him a cuckold. Who would send such a letter and why? She hires Archer to find out.

Archer drives north of LA to the fictitious community of Quinto, next to the oil town of Nopal, where the Slocums live on property awash in oil. Slocum's mother-in-law refuses to let the big oil company ruin her l
Victoria Mixon
Mystery writer Ross Macdonald was the husband of mystery writer Margaret Millar, which automatically makes their household my dream household. And I've read and liked Macdonald's The Undeground Man.

But I'm afraid The Drowning Pool doesn't measure up. For all the great potential tension in unexplained secret relationships, the father-who's-not-a-father (that "secret" isn't really a secret), not to mention that wonderful ancient hacienda, there's too many weaknesses in this one for a pro: too much
Jan 04, 2016 Kerrie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This Penguin Publisher e-book version comes with an excellent introduction by John Banville.

"as usual with Macdonald, the mud at the bottom of today's pool is stirred up by yesterday's storms. There is hardly a character in the book without something to hide from his or her past."

All this gives the plot an incredible complexity, although, as Banville says, Macdonald was really intrigued by the motivations of plausible people in plausible circumstances.

Three deaths later, Lew Archer comes up wit
Jun 19, 2014 Andy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don’t want to say I disliked this novel, but I was overall unimpressed with it compared with others I've read lately. Lew Archer is a tough, smart character, but he’s not as rough or interesting as Mike Hammer or Philip Marlowe for example. The story really got going about a third into it, but up to that point I was actually bored. The prose isn't always on-par with the best hard-boiled writing in my opinion.

The story follows private eye Lew Archer, he's contacted by Maude Slocum who wants him
Aug 06, 2014 Varad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ross Macdonald's reputation is that he took the noirish, hardboiled private detective story pioneered by Dashiel Hammett and refined by Raymond Chandler, to psychological depths they only hinted at. A Euripides to their Aeschylus and Sophocles, as it were. If that's true, then that transformation took place in his subsequent Lew Archer novels. In The Drowning Pool he's still in Chandler mode, though there are hints of what's to come.

A beautiful woman, Maude Slocum, walks into Archer's office and
Sep 18, 2012 Joe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've been wondering lately, what is it that draws me to these detective/crime novels? What is it about them that appeals to me? One big reason is the "outsider" factor that all these stories have. Lew Archer is an outsider looking in on peoples lives. He's outside their lives and he's the only one of a handful of characters (there are always at least two minor characters he can trust) with a moral code. He follows this code no matter what: back against the wall, staring down a gun barrel. He, an ...more
If, like me, you had hardly given mystery a second glance while you were forming your literary taste, you should read this book (or any of MacDonald's Lew Archer novels - this is actually the second). There are so many incredible books out there to be digested, I didn't feel I had the time or mental space to waste on detective fiction. But if you know me, you'll know I've changed my tune in recent years. And if you want to change your tune, too, you could do a lot worse than start with Ross MacD ...more
Trixie Fontaine
Definitely entertaining and there were things I appreciated a lot that I didn't anticipate, but those things (an environmentalist sensibility) set me up for disappointment with the save-a-ho agenda ("get a DECENT job"???) which I would have accepted without batting an eyelash given the genre and age of the book if it hadn't been for the relatively progressive thoughts in other arenas.

Still, I may give Ross MacDonald another shot because a) I vaguely recall reading a short of his that I loved (mi
Jul 22, 2013 Ann rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
Lew Archer is right up there with Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade at the top of the Californian world-weary private eyes. In this novel from 1950 he is hired by a the curvaceous Maude Slocum, who has intercepted a letter threatening to tell her rich but weak husband about her indiscretions. Lew feels hamstrung by the fact that she refuses to give him any information, and shows up in her town to see for himself. He quickly realizes the Slocum household is toxic with secrets, resentments and greed, W ...more
Christopher Fulbright
Jun 19, 2012 Christopher Fulbright rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
These Lew Archer books are top notch and this one may be the best of the five or so that I've read in the series so far. Ross Macdonald has a way of using that fine old hardboiled style like casting an artful spell. People have done it before, but few people have done it better, so it winds up powerful magic indeed. Archer is a likable tough guy with a code of honor, and, in this book in particular, the character has a way of making insightful observations about people and life that really catch ...more
Nick Tramdack
Mar 23, 2011 Nick Tramdack rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The plot of this early Ross Macdonald novel isn't too different from many other 1950s private eye stories. What lifts it above the pack is Macdonald's voice - clearsighted, snappy, and somehow ethical at the same time... not that private eye Lew Archer considers himself better than others, but that he holds everybody to the same standard and comes out often worse. A kind of humanist noir.

You get "LITERARY" lines like: "her cheeks faintly hollowed as if she had been feeding off her own beauty" in
Jason Shaffner
Jun 13, 2014 Jason Shaffner rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Huh, probably the strangest ending (in a satisfying way) of any PI novel I've read. It gives nothing away to say it ends with a fistfight and a handshake between the combatants. Strange, but so is the book. Slow at first, a bit scattered throughout, yet somehow pleasant. Lew Archer novel and he's an interesting blend of thug, punching-bag, and Sherlock. I like him.
Aug 04, 2016 JacquiWine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to JacquiWine by: Max Cairnduff
A few weeks ago I hit a bit of a reading slump; a couple of disappointments, one or two abandoned books and a terrible migraine left me craving something familiar and satisfying. Around the same, a conversation with Max (Pechorin’s Journal) reminded me of the brilliance of Ross Macdonald. So I decided to reread The Drowning Pool (which I’d read pre-blog) and write about it here. The Drowning Pool is the second in Macdonald’s series of hardboiled novels featuring private investigator Lew Archer. ...more
Lukasz Pruski
"Existentialism, they said. Henry Miller and Truman Capote and Henry Moore. André Gide and Anais Nin and Djuna Barnes. And sex - hard-boiled, poached, coddled, shirred, and fried easy over in sweet, fresh creamery butter. Sex solo, in duet, trio, quartet; for all-male chorus; for choir and symphony; and played on the harpsichord in three-fourth time. And Albert Schweitzer and the dignity of everything that lives."

This overlong quote - where Lew Archer describes conversations at a party that he a
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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 Way Some People Die
  • The Ivory Grin
  • Find a Victim
  • The Barbarous Coast
  • The Doomsters
  • The Galton Case
  • The Wycherly Woman
  • The Zebra-Striped Hearse

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“There was nothing wrong with Southern California that a rise in the ocean level wouldn't cure.” 37 likes
“He had pink butterfly ears. The rest of him was still in the larval stage.” 8 likes
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