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The Ivory Grin (Lew Archer #4)

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  747 ratings  ·  57 reviews
A hard-faced woman clad in a blue mink stole and dripping with diamonds hires Lew Archer to track down her former maid, who she claims has stolen her jewelry. Archer can tell he's being fed a line, but curiosity gets the better of him and he accepts the case. He tracks the wayward maid to a ramshackle motel in a seedy, run-down small town, but finds her dead in her tiny ro ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 256 pages
Published August 1st 1988 by Bantam (first published 1952)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,068)
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Kirk
This is the first time Archer went all sociologically profound on our genre-loving asses, and there's pros and cons. The good news is that Macdonald's racially tinged plot doesn't browbeat us with the politics, unlike, say, every episode of COLD CASE to ever feature an African-American. On the downside, it's pretty clear that Macdonald's knowledge of the Af-Am experience fell somewhere between Huggy Bear of Starsky & Hutch and Rog & Rerun on What's Happening!!!, with a little Esther Roll ...more
Cathy DuPont
It didn't take me long to recall that I had read this book but heh, it's Ross Macdonald. That's THE Ross Macdonald one of the icons of the hard-boiled/pulp world. One of the writers that today's most popular authors say was an influence in their decision and desire to write mysteries/thrillers/detective books.

Lew Archer is the name of this P.I. who uses his head to solve complicated mysteries of "whodunit."

I've copied this from Wiki, which read my mind except the naming of Lew. Now that mystery
...more
Bill  Kerwin

This, the fourth novel in the Lew Archer series, is very good but not exceptional (at least not according to the standards of this exceptional series). It does, however, have all the ingredients of a good mystery, and is graced with Macdonald's strengths such as his vivid cameos (the old invalid black woman whose hobbies are listening to the radio and her neighbors' business; a middle-aged milliner relaxing with a glass of wine and her cat; a decent small town sheriff distrustful of big city det
...more
Tfitoby
Perhaps high expectations of Ross MacDonald's stuff is responsible for this book not rocking my world. I enjoyed it but there was something lacking that would've made me love it. So far I can't really put my finger on what it was.

Lew Archer is a great protagonist for the genre; a mean, self serving PI with a penchant for hard boiled dialogue.

Ross MacDonald's prose is filled with fantastic observations of both people and places.

The plot is wonderfully convoluted, not too confusing but not too str
...more
Harry
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'
...more
Srinivas Prasad Veeraraghavan
I had been waiting to get my hands on the great man's books for months (nearly a year) and the wait had been "excruciatingly beautiful" if I could describe it thus.

Had read only 3 of his novels before and loved 'em so my appetite was fully whetted by the time I grabbed 4 of his rare Omnibus editions.

Started with "The Ivory Grin" and I experienced "one of those days" where the rest of the things and the people around you seem utterly insignificant. Yes, I was in "the Zone" as the more articulate
...more
Debbi Mack
Ross Macdonald was nothing if not a gifted stylist when it came to writing prose. THE IVORY GRIN starts off with a tension-filled meeting between the protagonist, private eye Lew Archer, and an unpleasant (in attitude and looks), but well-dressed, woman who wants to hire him.

You know the kind of person Archer's dealing with when he says that she "looked up at me with the air of an early bird surveying an outsize worm," then goes on to state that after giving him a handshake "as hard as a man's .
...more
AC
(The five-stars here, of course, is relative to the genre..., not to Proust)

MacDonald's mastery of his craft is evident on nearly every page here - both in the writing, and in the construction and characterization and believablity. Everything I find lacking in science fiction, I find present in crime fiction... including a certain moral tenderness.

In the Ivory Grin, RM also deals with the issue of race - circa 1952 -- and though he writes as a white man, and pretends nothing else, he has an eye
...more
Joe
Another strong entry in the "Lew Archer" series from Ross Macdonald. This one dealt with some racial issues and was written in the early fifties so I was worried I was in store for some good ole' fashioned awkwardness but for the most part Macdonald did a good job of not being too preachy but unfortunately his knowledge and ideas about African American's is dicey at best.

The book rallies, however, with some great writing, characterization and a whiz-bang plot that keeps you engaged. However, for
...more
Ryan
Smart and engrossing noir, a near-extinct style of American writing that will sadly leave us forever once James Elroy retires. Ross MacDonald possessed a full mastery of setting, dialogue, plot and character; he may be nearly forgotten these days and you may only find his novels in shabby secondhand stores, but few other writers ever made a grouchy reader like this guy feel as immersed and convinced of the reality of a novel. MacDonald created atmosphere that I can still taste and imagery that I ...more
Shannon
Ooooh, how grisly! The ending is quite good, which is where other Archer novels have lost me. Plus, there are, of course, pages and pages of wonderfully disgusting, pitiless people with racial tension and injustice sewn in. Worth the read for the appalling morgue honeymoon, a graphic murder, and the pathetic candor of the last few pages.
doug bowman
A labyrinth of a tale, where you can never quite get a handle on who's part of the solution or another piece of the puzzle. MacDonald characters have more facets to their personalities, never falling into the cliched characterizations found in lesser writers in the genre
Tom Stamper
The fourth book in the series sacrifices character for a more complex plot that it's not as interesting. If you started with this book you wouldn't understand the code of Lew Archer that made the first three novels so interesting. The other characters are numerous and few are distinguishable for a length of time. He tries to give us one sympathetic character but rather than show us why we should care he tells us how much Archer likes her. There are still moments of brilliant dialogue, but not as ...more
Corey
One of the best hardboiled crime novels I've ever read. "Her cut throat gaped like the mouth of an unspeakable grief.” Wow.
Phillip Frey
May 03, 2014 Phillip Frey rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes murder mysteries.
This is the 5th Lew Archer book I've read in a row. Years ago I had read all of Ross MacDonald's books, which included the non-Lew Archer books. I thought now would be a good time to reread the Lew Archer's. I was right. This one, "The Ivory Grin," takes place in a small California town. Archer is hired to find a rich women's maid who had run off with the woman's jewelery. Archer soon discovers that the woman who had hired him had lied, but has yet to discover why. He finds the maid, dead in a m ...more
Mic
I love Ross MacDonald's writing style. Quotes:
"...In spite of this, it was a room in which the crime of poverty had left clues."

"His little smile had a shamefaced charm, acknowledging that he had taken a running jump at manhood and still, at forty or forty-five, had never quite got his hands on it-- of it existed, the smile went on to wonder."

"I can't deny I sold that hat, and I can't deny it was an original. But how can I say who bought it from me? I made it away back last spring some time. I d
...more
Andrew
Continuing to read the Lew Archer novels in order. Ross Macdonald is a master of hardboiled detective fiction, perfecting what Hammett and Chandler started--but it took him a while to warm up. After three promising but flawed offerings, he hits his stride in this fourth novel.

Archer is hired to track down a thieving maid. He doesn't trust his client--a rich but vulgar woman--but he takes the job anyway. Soon, the maid turns up dead, and Archer is scrambling to find out what happened and make sur
...more
rabbitprincess
Jul 19, 2011 rabbitprincess rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Archer completists
Shelves: bibliotheque, 2011
* * 1/2

Much as I like Ross Macdonald's writing and the character of Archer, I found myself disappointed with this book, the third Archer book I've read. It's a shame because I really do like the series. Part of it is likely my fault, since I didn't start reading it right when I wanted to (had other books to finish first), and my reading was fragmented. However, I did find the plot kind of lacking in oomph, and the whole denouement felt a bit far-fetched. I felt about the same way I did when tryi
...more
Rog Pile
The Ivory Grin, Pan UK 1957

Sometimes you pick up a book and immediately get that certain feeling, which was what happened when I started this one - which just happened to be my first John Ross Macdonald thriller. That was back in 1988. On the back cover I found some connections with other authors. ‘John Ross Macdonald’, the cover blurb informed me, was a pen name used by Kenneth Millar who had written several thrillers under his own name and whose wife Margaret was no slouch herself when it came to tapping out an occasion
...more
Texbritreader
This is the fourth book in the Lew Archer series and was my first reading of Ross Macdonald. The story is set in post-war Southern California and still retains much of the gritty style and feel of Chandler's Philip Marlowe but I was even more aware of the nicely cinematic flair of the narrative. The evocative descriptions and tight plot unfolded like a lost noir film and Macdonald kept up a fast, smooth pace from beginning to end.

The story begins with a stereotypical mysterious woman client who
...more
Randy
Archer knew the story was phony when the woman gave it to him. She wanted him to find a negro woman, a servant, who'd stolen some jewelry, nothing valuable enough to bring the police in, just sentimental stuff. Find her, follow her, let the boss know where she was so she could talk to her.

The second story wasn't much better. The woman had quit her and knew some embarrassing things. She wanted her back.

But she was offering a hundred dollars and his wallet was empty.

Of course things weren't even c
...more
Ubiquitousbastard
I have to admit, this book disappointed me. Pretty much nothing happened at all. It was kind of obvious who was involved (view spoiler) and what the situation was (view spoiler) There were no moments of: Oh crap, I did not see that coming! or: OMGZ! More gangsters! (I can't help it, I love gangsters. They're just all around amusing.) Sure, there's a good depiction of racism, blah blah blah...oh sorry, completely lost interest there. ...more
Don Frolimo
Always the sunny California flavours sweet dream - soon chaste and clean. Lazy time sits under purple jacarandas sipping Tom Collins. Eternal ocean bestows its spirit to coastal towns... Sure, it's nothing more than illusion. Fortune tempts crime. Nevertheless Macdonald can adjust this illusive beauty and murders. He seal hidden darkness with the same winsome airiness, at that his description and dialogues are brisk and sharp too. Sometimes a heretic idea comes to my mind: this guy is maybe bett ...more
David
Wow! I read a lot of mystery novels, and it is not often that I am taken completely by surprise. The writing is typically excellent. Ross Macdonald has a way of describing people and things that is unexpected and colorful. Some of the scenes in the book are quite memorable, such as the surprise in the doctor's office and the haunting description of Leo Durano.

This is a complex novel with a lot of twists and turns in the plot. The action builds up to what amount to three endings, one after the ot
...more
Jon
The plotting is a little relaxed compared to the previous novels, but the prose remains amazing.
David Liller
Reading early MacDonald is almost like seeing documentary on early Southern California when there were still small towns separated from the not-yet-sprawling Los Angeles by green fields, remote farms and lonely coastlines. In MacDonald's world Southern California is ruled by wealthy, privileged families whose pride and arrogance, like that found in Greek tragedies, lead to actions that return to wreak havoc on future generations. This is really early MacDonald (written in the 50's) and a great w ...more
Tom
I had given MacDonald's first Archer book a shot and couldn't get hooked. So on a limb, I picked this up and gave Archer another shot. I'm very glad that I did. This is an old school hard boiled detective story. Archer still has a heart, but he doesn't put up with crap. The scene of a man handcuffed to his dead fiance is eerily great. Scenes such as that are peppered throughout. Plus, you have to give big props to anybody who comes up with the idea of the dead man's skeleton hanging in the close ...more
Vicki Cline
This is a fairly early Archer mystery and, as such, doesn't have the multi-generational links that I like so much in the later works. Archer is hired to tail a young black woman, and the middle-aged hard-faced woman who hires him doesn't tell him her real name nor why she wants the other woman followed. Of course, multiple murders ensue, starting with Archer's target. It is pretty interesting, and I like MacDonald's use of language. But I am looking forward to re-reading the later ones.
Brendan
The brashness of Hammett but with depth of character, the panache of Chandler without the slick Hollywood style, Macdonald's writing is free and flowing, not suffering the choppy one-liners of the genre. It relies more on wit and craft than tough-guy cliches without sacrificing the characteristics of pulp I enjoy: the circuitous mystery development; the shades of gray ethics and morality; the calling of all spades spades. Breezy summertime reading, breezy wintertime reading.
Kassie
I love a good noir, and this was it.
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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
More about Ross Macdonald...
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