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The Doomsters (Lew Archer #7)

3.93  ·  Rating Details ·  734 Ratings  ·  58 Reviews
Hired by Carl Hallman, the desperate-eyed junkie scion of an obscenely wealthy political dynasty, detective Lew Archer investigates the suspicious deaths of his parents, Senator Hallman and his wife Alicia. Arriving in the sleepy town of Purissima, Archer discovers that orange groves may be where the Hallmans made their mint, but they’ve has been investing heavily in polit ...more
Paperback, Black Lizard, 251 pages
Published December 23rd 2007 by Vintage Crime (first published February 1958)
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Bill  Kerwin
Apr 27, 2009 Bill Kerwin rated it really liked it

Ross MacDonald is beginning to hit his stride in The Doomsters, but the book has too many imperfections to be considered among Archer's best.

Although the plot is good, the resolution takes too many pages of explanation, including an improbably lengthy monologue from the quadruple murderer, and the diction is occasionally imitative and unsure, sometimes bizarrely metaphorical like Chandler, occasionally libidinous like Spillane. There is still too much of Freud in Macdonald's Oedipus and Electra
May 27, 2015 Evgeny rated it liked it
Lew Archer became involved with a mentally disturbed guy from a wealthy family.
Mentally disturbed guy
Violence followed latter whenever he showed up, but Archer strongly suspected it is not his fault, so the detective decided to interfere. Violence escalated.

My biggest and the only question about this installment is, "What the hell happened to Archer between the previous book and this one?" What transformed him from a typical tough PI:
into a preacher?
It never felt to me Archer did any kind of investigation. He preac
Jun 29, 2013 AC rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime-mystery
Beach week starting --

I've been reading these in sequence.

Macdonald has said that The Doomsters was his breakthrough book -- the one where he stopped simply writing genre and became... a writer. For most of this book, I didn't feel that it was working. There was still the clichéd writing of the 1950's genre, the plot was too complicated and a bit implausible..., the characters predicatbly flat... and nothing really seemed new.

Till about ch. 24 -- then, things did start to change... even so, I
Oct 03, 2013 F.R. rated it really liked it
Something Archer and Philip Marlowe have in common is that they display the “wary good humour of men whose calling is death”. Okay, that description actually appears in this book attached to the otherwise inconsequential character of the deputy coroner, but I think it’s apt for both these California detectives. They are closed men, men in many ways shut off from the wider world, but they are able to keep up a string of patter when dealing with murder. Indeed it’s one of the more reliable weapons ...more
May 23, 2009 Freder rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is where the Archer books started to get really personal and hard, with everyone, including Archer, sharing a measure of the blame. One of the strongest entries in the series.
David Everett
Oct 13, 2009 David Everett rated it it was amazing
Not a bad place to start on the Ross MacDonald path. Crime, pathology and mystery mixed with psychology (and psychiatry), philosophy, dependency, and the vagaries of guilt and denial. One of the many MacDonald books that transcends the crime/mystery genre. He's a novelist, nothing less, and his work is addictive.
Alex Bledsoe
Feb 01, 2008 Alex Bledsoe rated it really liked it
A real sea change in MacDonald's work, where he becomes more interested in the "why" than the "how" of a case. The compressed time frame adds real urgency, and the wrap-up is vivid and oddly touching.
Apr 17, 2009 Chris rated it it was amazing
The title taken from a Thomas Hardy poem (Breathe not, hid Heart: cease silently, And though thy birth-hour beckons thee, Sleep the long sleep: The Doomsters heap; Travails and teens around us here), The Doomsters is perhaps the best example of Macdonald's ability to transcend the genre.
Aug 31, 2011 Tony rated it liked it
Macdonald, Ross. THE DOOMSTERS. (1958). ***.
Ross Macdonald (Kenneth Millar) was born in San Francisco in 1915, but raised in Ontario. He later returned to America as a young man and began writing. His first book was published in 1944. During the course of his career, he served as the president of the Mystery Writers of America and was named a Grand Master. The other prizes he won were too numerous to list. His series featuring Lew Archer, his private eye, were all best sellers, and broke out of
Oct 28, 2012 Matt rated it liked it
I am not altogether qualified to place this book in MacDonald's ouevre, because this is the first of his books I've read, but I liked it well enough. Lew Archer here tackles a case of a rotten but wealthy family as they kill each other off in search of an inheritance. This focus on real estate and privilege to me sort of typifies what I think of as LA Noir, and MacDonald brings some fairly explicit Freudian talk to this novel, and there's an almost quaint sense that the wicked souls here are cur ...more
Feb 23, 2015 Thomas rated it it was amazing
This is the book where Macdonald really pulled out of Chandler's and Hammett's shadows. The Doomsters is also different from most Archer books in that this time the mystery has a very personal connection for Archer - we learn much more about the detective himself than the usual "divorced former cop" line tossed into all the other books. In fact, the climax and denouement might be read as something of a catharsis of the character himself. It's not quite a "reboot" of the series, but it is clear t ...more
Jun 30, 2016 wally rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: macdonald-ross
30 jun 16, 1st from macdonald, ross for me...apparently. don't have any stories listed and i'd have to look over the list as seems like i've read something or more from him but then again maybe not. now this.
1 jul 16, finished. i liked it but just barely. a tad too convoluted, somewhat like the last story i read, that i don't want to look to see what it was to tell anyone. i'll slap my self later, that, or give the dirty romans time, there's always a hill available. sign me up.
maybe that is the
Ak-75 Harris
Apr 15, 2008 Ak-75 Harris rated it really liked it
Macdonald and his private detective Lew Archer are the heirs to Raymond Chandler and Philip Marlowe in all the important ways. He's a great writer that happens to write mysteries/crime/detective stories. The stories are less about whodunit or how it was done, but on the psychological reason why it was done. Usually with a twisted family tree or two and a surprise ending or two, it doesn't get any better than Ross Macdonald.
Paul Secor
Apr 06, 2016 Paul Secor rated it liked it
I'm rereading my way backwards through Ross Macdonald's novels. Except for The Ferguson Affair - which I don't count, since it's a non-Lew Archer novel -this was the first disappointment. I hope that it's just a glitch, but I shall find out.
Mick Grant
Jul 27, 2011 Mick Grant rated it really liked it
Ross Mcdonald's books are reminiscent of Chandler but he is arguably a better novelist with charcters more finely drawn. The mysteries are good too.
Jeffrey St.
Mar 19, 2008 Jeffrey St. rated it it was amazing
A tale of greed, politics and familial dysfunction in the hothouse of southern California by the last great master of the hard-boiled detective novel.
Jun 14, 2011 robyn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
Man, these books are like popcorn; you can't read just one.
Nov 23, 2016 Mark rated it it was amazing
In Lew Archer's (or Ross MacDonald's) California
Everything was as pretty as a postcard. The trouble with you, I said to myself: you're always turning over the postcards and reading the messages on the underside. Written in invsible ink, in blood, in tears, with a black border around them, with postage due, unsigned, or signed with a thumbprint.
What could be more California picture postcard than an orange grove outside the idyllic coastal town of La Purissima (a town which is anything but pure)
Feb 20, 2017 Jake rated it liked it
Maybe there was something wrong with me. Maybe I have finally hit a wall with the Lew Archer series (perish the thought!) but I simply could not get into this one. It's still an Archer novel so it remains a quality mystery tale but from the start, this one felt weaker than others. It relies too much on expository dialogue rather than Archer's detective skills and the setting is too familiar (though again, that's on me as I've read the vast majority of the Archer series already). This one ranks o ...more
Feb 13, 2017 Andrew rated it it was amazing
Maybe more like 4 1/2. wasn't so interested in the story as story, but did like the meandering way Archer is drawn in, the house in the orange groves, and the innocent (but not) wife of the crazy man. Excellent spinning out of control evening of houses burning down, ladies murdered, revelations coming in waves and final existential resolution. The doomsters are from poem - the gloomy ones chasing the family and never allowing a happy ending.
Feb 07, 2017 Marty rated it really liked it
More interesting writing than most current mystery fiction I've read. This is basically film noir in print. No real good guys, and everybody is tainted at the end. I don't know how I missed this one in my period of reading Ross MacDonald, but it's nice to have more even if it was just an oversight. I'll have to check and see if there are others yet to be read or perhaps I'll go back and reread some that I read years ago.
Seamus Thompson
Mar 08, 2017 Seamus Thompson rated it liked it
The later chapters -- especially the last two -- are where Macdonald and Archer begin to come into their own. Archer displays, more fully than in any of the earlier novels, the complex moral vision and empathy that become hallmarks of the series. Building on those final chapters in his next novel, The Galton Case, MacDonald series reaches maturity.
Patrik Sahlstrøm
Dec 09, 2016 Patrik Sahlstrøm rated it it was ok
This book is mostly psycho-philosphical rubbish. It doesn't help that Macdonald has run out of plots and keeps recycling his old ones. The one redeeming feature is that the messed up characters in this book are fairly interesting. Besides that - meh
Nov 22, 2016 Bob rated it liked it
Far From His Best

1958, seventh in the series

I am a long time fan of Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer stories. I have read all the novels at least twice. I agree with the idea that these are "the best series of mystery novels ever written by an American," and I would even drop the word "mystery" from that. They transcend the mystery genre into real literature.

The early novels have the flavor of a 1940s pulp fiction hard-boiled detective yarn. But Ross Macdonald matured out of that and came into his ow
Lukasz Pruski
Jun 13, 2016 Lukasz Pruski rated it it was ok
"Try listening to yourself sometime, alone in a transient room in a strange town. The worst is when you draw a blank, and the ash-blonde ghosts of the past carry on long twittering long-distance calls with your inner ear, and there's no way to hang up."

The Doomsters (1958), the twelfth novel in my "Re-read Ross Macdonald" project does not satisfy the "re-" criterion as I had never read it before. Alas it does not provide a particularly memorable entry in the Lew Archer series either: while a few
Feb 12, 2014 Mic rated it liked it
I love Ross MacDonald's writing style. Quotes!

"Her mouth was crudely outlined in fresh lipstick, which i guessed she had just dabbed on as a concession to the outside world. The only other concession was a pink nylon robe from which her breasts threatened to overflow."

"She had on a dark business suit which her body filled the way grapes fill their skins. She held a black plastic bag, like a shield, in front of it."

"Everything was as pretty as a postcard. The trouble with you, I said to myself: y
Apr 04, 2014 Joe rated it liked it
The first slight misstep in the Lew Archer series by Ross Macdonald. A decent mystery involving a messed up family and the twists and turns that mental illness mixed with money can cause.

The main problem was the treatment of mental illness. Macdonald had clearly just read some Freud or something and was extremely interested in it and wanted to put a lot of it in the story. Many of the theories the characters put forward are out of date or were never really believed by anyone in the first place.

Edward Weiss
Sep 11, 2016 Edward Weiss rated it really liked it
Ross Macdonald being Ross Macdonald takes a nothing beginning and with true noir style and follows it through four murders, two old ones and two new ones solving them as only Lew Archer can do, but still leaving the reader to sort it out by him or her self. Truly, one of the greats!
Nov 05, 2015 Larry rated it liked it
Lew Archer, retired cop and current p.i., gets to deal with dysfunctional families on a regularly. His observational skills are usually more detached from judgments about those families than in this book. Maybe having an escaped patient from a psychiatric facility steal your car while raving about his having been railroaded to the facility by his brother but also taking responsibility for the death of his father would make any investigator quicker to judge than usual. Since Archer wants to recov ...more
(view spoiler) I sort of miss the Chandler-esque feel that the previous books had, but that this one seemed to lack. It was rife with Macdonald's special brand of family tragedy, but that's really not the reason that I read his books. And if possible, this book was a little more dark and pessimistic than the previous books. I was also missing sarcasm; this book was entirely too serious for its own go ...more
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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 Galton Case
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“He hadn’t wanted to be helped the way I wanted to help him, the way that helped me.” 4 likes
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