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The Ivory Grin (Lew Archer #4)

4.03  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,140 Ratings  ·  79 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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May 19, 2015 Evgeny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wealthy-looking woman
A wealthy woman
came to hire Lew Archer to find her missing maid who supposedly stole some of her jewelry.
A maid
She sounded fishy for everybody with intellect higher than that of a six-year-old child, so Archer had his reservations about taking the assignment, but it sounded simple and harmless enough - he was to just tail the maid
A tail
and report on the people she saw to his client - so he accepted. As a special bonus for accepting the questionable assignment he gets to witness and participate in
Bill  Kerwin
Jun 08, 2016 Bill Kerwin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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
Apr 13, 2011 Kirk rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 25, 2013 Cathy DuPont rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 23, 2012 Tfitoby rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: black-as-night
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
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'
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
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 .
Jul 11, 2012 AC rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-mystery
(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
Monkey Paul Wilson
Lew Archer is probably the best of the old school PI detective series, topping Hammett's Sam Spade and Chandler's Philip Marlowe. Not a popular opinion, but I think MacDonald takes their obvious influences and makes more interesting plots and characters, especially those involving familial betrayals and conspiracies. Plus the mysteries tend to be less labyrinthine and easier to follow (read "The Big Sleep" 10 times, and you still don't know what the hell's going on).

This is only my third or so r
John Mchugh
Nov 09, 2015 John Mchugh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Binge reading 101. Nancy brought home, from our local library's used book store, a Mystery Guild Lost Classics Omnibus hard-cover monster (647 pages) that contains three Ross Macdonald novels - The Ivory Grin (1952), The Zebra Striped Hearse (1962) and The Underground Man (1971). I finished the last one today. So my first bite at the Ross Macdonald apple was a big one. All three were enjoyable, but I especially liked the last two. Complex and compelling plots, involving a cast of equally complex ...more
Jim Thomas
Apr 14, 2015 Jim Thomas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2015
Struggled to build some interest in an Adrian McKinty novel, got bogged down. That was probably to be expected since I'd just read Chandler and virtually anything is a step down from Chandler so I grabbed the author, the only one I think, who is in the same class as Hammett and Chandler, Ross Macdonald, and read it in less than 48 hrs. Not his best. The Chill by Macdonald is in a class of it's own and Black Money, Macdonald's own favorite is considered his F. Scott Fitzgerald inspired masterwork ...more
Apr 28, 2013 Joe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 24, 2015 Andy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is as good as it gets. The Ivory Grin is not only a great mystery but one of the best noirs I've read. Lew Archer's on the trail of a runaway maid who knows where more than a few bodies are buried. Along the way Archer has to dodge murderous matrons, two femmes fatales and an insane church going doctor. The action is tight, the writing is sharp and the resolution has more clarity and logic than a million Raymond Chandler novels.
Mar 04, 2011 Ryan rated it really liked it
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
Jul 23, 2016 JacquiWine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Ivory Grin (1952) is the fourth book in Ross Macdonald’s series featuring the Los Angeles-based private eye, Lew Archer. I’ve been trying to read them in order, so here are links to my reviews of the second and third novels in the series, The Drowning Pool and The Way Some People Die, both of which I would wholeheartedly recommend – they can be read as standalone works.

Back to The Ivory Grin. As the story begins, Archer receives a visit in his office from a rather strange, mannish-looking wo
Lukasz Pruski
"It was a colored sketch of a young woman. Her pale blond braids were coroneted on her head. Her eyes had the dull gleaming suavity of tile. Wilding had caught her beauty, but she was older in time than in the picture."

Ross Macdonald's The Ivory Grin (1952) is a bit out of the chronological order in my "Re-read Macdonald" project - I couldn't find my copy and had to use the library. Anyway, the book is almost exactly as old as I am and its age shows: not so much in the plot as in the writing, wh
Feb 05, 2016 Bob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
All of the Lew Archer mysteries by Ross Macdonald are very good, and all but two or three are excellent.

As always with Lew Archer, it is well plotted, tight, and plausible. There is little violence, at least in the twenty-first century sense. The earlier novels contain descriptions of people who have been beaten, and yes, people get shot. But there is never gore or sensationalism.

But beyond the mystery story aspects, no other mystery novelist that I am aware of has so many insightful observatio
Apr 28, 2016 Mark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
While I have been admiring and enjoying Ross MacDonald's Lew Archer series (which I'm reading in order), it's only with The Ivory Grin that I understand why MacDonald has such a cultish following. These are dark stories that expose the rottenness at the core of 1950s Southern California. In this case the racial divide is portrayed with particular sensitivity. MacDonald doesn't pound us over the head with a social crusade (a la Sara Paretsky - who I actually like), these stories are still the plo ...more
Feb 21, 2012 Shannon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
May 20, 2012 doug bowman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 06, 2009 Corey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 really liked it  ·  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
Feb 12, 2014 Mic rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 26, 2013 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 19, 2011 rabbitprincess rated it it was ok  ·  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
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
Feb 23, 2015 Thomas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A solid entry from the early part of the Archer series. Later books would focus less on imitating Chandler's clever dialog, and delve more deeply on the psychological motivations of the characters and the moral ambiguities of their actions. But a little bit of that is already starting to happen here. Still a nice, brisk read for a rainy weekend. Though I'd kind of guessed the solution to the mystery fairly early on, this is still perhaps the most macabre Archer I've read yet.
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
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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
  • Find a Victim
  • The Barbarous Coast
  • The Doomsters
  • The Galton Case
  • The Wycherly Woman
  • The Zebra-Striped Hearse

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