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The Blue Hammer (Lew Archer #18)

4.02  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,192 Ratings  ·  68 Reviews
The desert air is hot with sex and betrayal, death and madness and only Archer can make sense of a killer who makes murder a work of art. Finding a purloined portrait of a leggy blonde was supposed to be an easy paycheck for Detective Lew Archer, but that was before the bodies began piling up. Suddenly, Archer find himself smack in the middle of a decades-long mystery of a ...more
Hardcover, 270 pages
Published May 12th 1976 by Knopf (first published 1976)
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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
179th out of 530 books — 661 voters
The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. CainThe Maltese Falcon by Dashiell HammettThe Killer Inside Me by Jim ThompsonSin City, Vol. 1 by Frank MillerDouble Indemnity by James M. Cain
best crime pulps
95th out of 113 books — 6 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,883)
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Bill  Kerwin
Jul 30, 2016 Bill Kerwin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This is Ross Macdonald's final novel, and the last in the series of Lew Archer mysteries. It is a very good novel, animated by the usual Macdonald themes, and marks a fitting end to a life of literary achievement.

Detective Lew Archer is hired by Ruth Beimeyer for what seems like a routine job: to find a stolen painting. But Lew soon finds out it is not as simple as it seems. What is the connection between Mrs. Biemeyer and the artist Richard Chantry? Why is Mr. Biedermeyer so angry, and why is t
Jul 24, 2015 Evgeny rated it really liked it
Blue hammer
The picture shows exactly what I imagined looking at the title of the book, but the image has exactly the same relation to the content of the book as yours truly to professional ukulele players: none.

A very dysfunctional family hired Lew Archer to retrieve a stolen painting; they did not want any kind of publicity by involving police into their affairs. The police had to be involved anyway after Archer found a man beaten to death who recently handled the painting in question. The second dead bo
Dec 29, 2010 Kirk rated it liked it
Yesterday I got so sick of that stupid Seth Rogen superhero movie trailer that I turned to my ladycakes and said, "I would honestly like to smash that Green Hornet with a Blue Hammer." Inasmuch as I know how unoriginal I am, I was sure that image---the cobalt ballpeen (my high-school nickname, btw)---must be a distant echo of something I absorbed in the long last past. But what was it? Did "The Blue Hammer" refer to:

a) A sad Tom DeLay, former House of Reps Republican recently convicted of campai
Ένα καλό αστυνομικό μυθιστόρημα, αλλα δυστυχώς δεν κατάφερε να με ενθουσιάσει. Το βρήκα κάπως αργό και το τέλος ήταν αναμενόμενο. Βέβαια, νομίζω την κρίση μου την επηρέασε αρκετά το βιβλίο που προηγήθηκε. Έχοντας, λοιπόν, διαβάσει το "όταν σκοτώνουν τα κοτσύφια", ένα βιβλίο που με στιγμάτισε, περίμενα πως αυτό το βιβλίο θα με ικανοποιούσε εξίσου.
Sep 03, 2009 Gabriel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: shadow-man
It's been something of a desperate, Archer-like, 48-hour lurch through Macdonald's Archer books for me, and I can't say I enjoyed every bit of it. But when you can cap it off with a book like The Blue Hammer, you're willing to forgive some dull moments.

And there are a few dull moments here. Too much Archer, for one thing. But damned if this isn't the most Macdonaldian plot yet, and that's saying something.

Look, at this point in his life, Macdonald had been living with Alzheimer's for a couple of
Nov 05, 2015 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The last Lew Archer detective novel by Ross Macdonald is a splendid one. Macdonald's humanistic sleuth is his tough self, but the tender side shows through even more clearly here. The story, like most of Macdonald's work, is about family secrets. This one is innovative and complex, starting with a missing painting and ending up with melancholy and deep regrets. The most melancholy thing for me was the fact that there are no more Archer novels. The entire series is among the best American crime w ...more
Apr 06, 2016 Joe rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery-thriller
This is the 18th and last adventure of LA private-eye Lew Archer. Lew is the “first generation progeny” of Chandler’s Philip Marlowe and Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade and The Continental Op. (Lew’s surname from Spade’s partner Miles Archer.) The series is classic “hard-boiled”, but much more than a cheap imitation of its predecessors - Lew and his “cases” standing on their own and the series spanning almost thirty years.

The Blue Hammer opens with our hero traveling to the fictional California tow
Jun 22, 2014 Tony rated it really liked it
THE BLUE HAMMER. (1976). Ross Macdonald. ****.
It’s time to go back and re-read Macdonald’s novels featuring his private detective Lew Archer. It’s been a long time since I first read them, but they deserve picking up again. In this novel, Archer is hired to find and return a painting that was stolen from a private house. It was a painting by a local artist that soon became famous, but, at the height of his fame, disappeared from sight. It’s a small town, one where everyone knows everyone else, e
Oct 31, 2014 Nigel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Though published in 1976, this doesn't feel like the type of crime/PI novel of the seventies. It's not remotely hard-boiled, for a start, though it's certainly noirish. If anything, MacDonald's Lew Archer novels are downright soft-boiled, there's always a terrible sadness at their core, and Archer is not immune to that sadness, in fact he seems drawn to it and braced for the inevitable pain he's determined to uncover.

In The Blue Hammer, Archer is asked to recover a stolen painting. Almost at on
Corey Lynn Fayman
Feb 13, 2014 Corey Lynn Fayman rated it it was amazing
I’m a big fan of Ross MacDonald and he’s probably the author who most influenced my own mystery writing. The Blue Hammer is one of the best examples of his style and skills - brilliantly plotted, sparse and propulsive. Here his protagonist, Lew Archer, unravels several generations of family secrets that lead from Sunny California to New Mexico and back as he tries to recover a disputed painting and encounters murders both fresh and stale. If “…each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” as To ...more
May 15, 2014 Larry rated it liked it
Lew Archer investigates the theft of a painting, but the case quickly becomes a triple murder case, one of the murders thirty years in the past. Archer asks the right questions of all who were or might have been involved, and he's subdued good company as ever (no wise-cracking with Archer), but the murderer is evident from early on. The value of the book lays in its careful detail and its (Archer's) ability to read people. Macdonald (Millar) was a good stylist in a controlled way.
Eldonfoil TH*E Whatever Champion
At this point I think I'm finally over the issue of MacDonald going down the highway in Chandler's rear-view mirror. I know we could blow a couple of holes in the plausibility equation for some of these plots, but I for one would never put anything past 20th century America and anyway I don't see the need to tear down this jewel. This book plays out like a wicked contortionist with all of society trapped in a 10 by 10 glass container, oxygen tank required, chapter after chapter.

I won't deny tha
Dec 11, 2014 Steve rated it really liked it
25 years before the story takes place, renowned painter Richard Chantry disappears without a trace suddenly. Now Lew Archer is called into look into the disappearance of a painting that may have been painted by Chantry. Archer is drawn into the mystery which goes back to that disappearance and earlier. Macdonald is very adept at stringing together all the threads of the story and brining them together at the end, even with the very last sentence of the story. I enjoyed this quite a bit; even tho ...more
Brian Stillman
Apr 10, 2016 Brian Stillman rated it it was ok
Trying to temper my reaction to The Blue Hammer with the knowledge that Macdonald's mind was about to enter the horrors of Alzheimer's. The final Lew Archer isn't bad like Chandler's Playback is bad, but I slungshot through most of Archer in a short amount of time. Then took a 3 year break. And picked up The Blue Hammer and it just didn't ignite the way most of them do.

The all-too-familiar problems of the crazy and rich is territory Lew's negotiated before and in more interesting, lethal
Jan 16, 2013 Drew rated it liked it
I read this because of Andrew's review. Interesting and entertaining. I have read few mysteries so I don't have anything to compare it to. I didn't figure out who the murderer was until Archer spelled out the crime.
Jan 08, 2010 David rated it liked it
Can people really kill someone and assume their identity without no one catching on? In Ross MacDonald's world it seems to happen all the time. I love Archer, but this one was not one of my favorites.
Jul 03, 2009 Alan rated it liked it
Shelves: library-book, mystery
Fairly good LA-noir type mystery, but definately not one of his better ones. Still, great plot twists at the end.
Mar 26, 2016 Sonia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: e-books
Even though I've been binge-reading Lew Archer I haven't been going in any order, just taking what e-books my library has available. So I didn't realize this was the last one, published in 1976. It reminded me of TINTIN AND THE PICAROS in the sense that a character who clearly belongs to an earlier era has to deal with cult communes and minorities and whatnot. Also maybe the art world setting reminded of of Alph-Art? Aging is a big motif here, so perhaps the multiple descriptions of breakfasts a ...more
Jul 03, 2009 Karen rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: mystery lovers who like books set in bygone eras
Recommended to Karen by: self-recommended
Most Lew Archer mystery/private detective books seem to have connected murders that go back decades. But this one has an unusual twist ending and the connected murders are very plausible -- once you get to the end of the book. I like art, have studied art history, so I found this particular book fascinating: a painting of allegedly little value is stolen a few days after it was "discovered", which seems to be the work of a famous artist who has been missing for 25 years, then we meet his wife wh ...more
Feb 12, 2012 A rated it liked it
Plot – 3, Characters – 4, Theme – 1, Voice – 4, Setting – 3, Overall – 3

1) Plot (3 stars) – A painting is stolen and Lew Archer is called upon to find it. But, surprise surprise, the case is much more complex than that and soon he’s digging up decades of dirt to find out what happened. This is a classic detective story, so you’re going to get a man walking around and talking to people to pick up clues. Naturally, there’s going to be mystery and tension, but I thought the flames on both of these
Anastasia Tsalikidou
3 1/2. Άθελά μου, όσο διάβαζα το συγκεκριμένο βιβλίο, το συνέκρινα με το "The Big Sleep" του Raymond Chandler, καθώς και οι δυο συγγραφείς θεωρούνται κορυφαίοι στην κλασική αστυνομική λογοτεχνία. Επίσης και οι δυο χρησιμοποιούν τον κεντρικό τους ήρωα (ιδιωτικό ντετέκτιβ) ως αφηγητή των γεγονότων και των σκεψεών τους, τα οποία οδηγούν και στην επίλυση του μυστηρίου. Ωστόσο, η "Γαλάζια Φλέβα" μου φάνηκε πολύ καλύτερη, με ιστορία που κυλάει γρήγορα, με έξυπνες ανατροπές, με ενδιαφέροντες χαρακτήρες ...more
Aug 07, 2015 Philip rated it really liked it
This is maybe the third or fourth one of Macdonald's Lew Archer books I've read, and as with all the others I've read, it starts out a murder mystery and winds up as a story about f***-ed up families and their secrets. It's bleak, but surprisingly thoughtful, and I like his prose style a lot - he's neither as overwrought as David Goodis, nor as bitterly poetic as Raymond Chandler.
Dec 22, 2012 Andrew rated it really liked it
This is a great book. Even if you figure out the mystery early on it is still enjoyable to process getting to the resolution. Lew Archer is an interesting detective. He has a human side. He is capable of falling in love while realizing that he is making himself vulnerable and taking risks. And this is a credit to the writing of the book. The motivations of the characters seemed plausible. You could understand how they felt and what they were feeling. This is a credit to the author’s ability to c ...more
Phillip Frey
Sep 13, 2014 Phillip Frey rated it really liked it
Another wonderful time spent with Ross MacDonald. As with all of his books, "The Blue Hammer" remains contemporary because the plot deals with family and the connected crimes that befall. MacDonald's steadfast detective, Lew Archer, has been hired to find a stolen painting, which will lead to trying to find the missing artist, a missing woman, and a killer.
Jun 11, 2011 Peony rated it liked it
Hardboiled. Traditional younger dame/damsel in distress, vaguely damaged and hard private detective. Okay story about a mysterious painter who disappeared. One of his paintings is stolen and Lew Archer is hired. The daughter of the owners goes missing. It all traces back to an interconnected drama in Arizona, where the owners, painter, and his wife are from. Painter's brother had been killed, there were various affairs between painter, eventual painting owner, mine owner, a model. Ends up that F ...more
Thomas Tymstone
Jul 21, 2016 Thomas Tymstone rated it it was ok
Shelves: cultural, mystery
There was a lot going on maybe more than usual in a Lew Archer case.

** At one point he pressures a Black women in front of her kid, she wasn't even a suspect or a criminal. He was tired and anxious so he pushed way to hard and didn't scold himself for the trouble of making her daughter cry.
Nov 08, 2014 Tony rated it liked it
A well constructed story, very nicely written as is usual for Ross Macdonald. Slight let-down was that I worked out the ending quite a long way before the story finished. Still, I expect to read many more of Macdonald's books. He really is excellent and not far behind Chandler in my view.
Vicki Cline
Sep 03, 2013 Vicki Cline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: archer-mysteries
This is the last Lew Archer mystery. Having recently read an early one, it's clear that Lew has matured and doesn't get into fights as much. He does still wind up in cases where something bad happened years ago that has poisoned lives, mostly of young people not involved in the original events. A painting by a famous local artist who disappeared many years ago has gone missing and Archer is hired to find it. This leads him to people who sell paintings down by the beach at Santa Teresa, and to Ar ...more
Jul 16, 2015 Jason rated it really liked it
"Outside, the sun had just gone down. The sunset spread across the sea like a conflagration so intense that it fed on water."
Those two sentences alone are worth 4 stars. The rest of the book is pretty good too.
Dave Mccormick
Feb 27, 2015 Dave Mccormick rated it liked it
Some pretty interesting character studies in a town filled with secrets, all apparently intertwined with each other. I had to deduct a star as it became clear who the killer was well before it was revealed. I would really rate it 3 and a half. A solid read for fans of the noir detective genre.
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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...

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“It was some time since I had gone to sleep in the same room with a girl. Of course, the room was large and reasonably well-lighted, and the girl had other things than me on her mind.” 9 likes
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