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The Moving Target (Lew Archer #1)

3.84  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,712 Ratings  ·  153 Reviews
Like many Southern California millionaires, Ralph Sampson keeps odd company. There's the sun-worshipping holy man whom Sampson once gave his very own mountain; the fading actress with sidelines in astrology and S&M. Now one of Sampson's friends may have arranged his kidnapping.

As Lew Archer follows the clues from the canyon sanctuaries of the megarich to jazz joints wh
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Published December 8th 2010 by Vintage Crime/Black Lizard (first published 1949)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,963)
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Bill  Kerwin

I read all of the Archer books some thirty-five years ago, and since then I have been under the impression that none of the books until The Galton Case was worthy of attention. I was wrong.

True, The Moving Target (Archer #1) lacks a family tragedy with haunted children that is the hallmark of later Archer, and it also lacks a disciplined series of images--both in metaphor and in the visuals evoked by the narrative--that carry us to the heart of the classic Archer tale.

Still, there's enough her
Oct 30, 2014 Evgeny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Evgeny by: Jeff
Move over Philip Marlowe, there is a new PI in town and he is not afraid to get his head bumped hard enough to knock him down. Lew Archer is a private investigator down on his luck; he has to take divorce cases to make a living. When a wife of a Texas oil tycoon asked him to find her husband who went missing hoping Archer would find him with a mistress, neither Archer no his client knew that the investigation would lead to the underbelly of the underworld and practically every type of crime whic ...more
Jan 15, 2015 Algernon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015

Brain's in my stomach,
Heart's in my mouth,
Want to go north -
My feet point south.
I got the psychosomatic blues.
Doctor, doctor, doctor,
Analyze my brain.
Organize me, doctor.
Doctor ease my pain -
I got the psychosomatic blues.

A world-weary private detective sits down in a rundown bar with a whisky and a smoke in front of him, listening to a sultry, sexy singer playing the blues on the piano. She may be involved in a crime he is currently investigating, the disappearance of a wealthy oil tyc
Dan Schwent
Millionaire Ralph Sampson has been kidnapped and it's up to Lew Archer to find him. But what does the kidnapping have to do with an aging astrologer-actress, a piano player, and a holy man Sampson once gave a mountain to?

The Moving Target was a fast-paced noir thriller. Archer kept getting deeper and deeper into trouble. The love triangle between Miranda Sampson, Albert Graves, and Allen Taggart seemed to be needless at first but proved to be a very important plot element. One thing I really lik
Anthony Vacca
3.5, really. A shaky start, but really took off near the halfway mark. A sturdy emulation of Chandler's style with flashes of more racial/societal sympathies than you'll find in Marlowe's embittered worldview. But, more importantly, my edition has a 5-star cover that asks the hard question, Why is there a target wedged in a pair of ass cheeks? You will not find the answer between the covers.
Aug 01, 2011 Randy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The first Lew Archer novel.

Archer is hired by a woman to find her millionaire husband, who has been missing for a couple of days. He'd wandered off, drunk, when the chauffeur went to bring the limo around at the airport. He had a habit of doing such and the last time he'd given away a mountain with a hunting lodge to weird old religious freak. See, he was into astrology and such. The wife wanted him found before he did something else stupid.

Not having much luck, a letter arrives, in the milliona
The Moving Target is the second Ross Macdonald book I’ve read this summer (Instant Enemy was the other). I still don’t know much of Mr. Macdonald outside of his brief bio and cool, lean cop-meets-journalist-meets insurance salesman jacket picture, but I want to learn more. His The Moving Target is the rare book that both validates and transcends its genre.

Macdonald’s (anti)hero, Lew Archer, is a private detective with all the expected private detective characteristics (few friends, shady history
Sep 09, 2012 Joe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ross Macdonald, where have you been all my life? This year I finally ran out of Dashell Hammett and Raymond Chandler novels to read so I had to strike off into the noir wilderness to find someone new. Well I didn't have to look long.

"The Moving Target" is superb. The dialogue is snappy, bitting and can pack a punch. A slightly less sad version of the world that Chandler created. And, I'll go ahead and say it, better than the majority of what Hammett wrote. Better characters, better settings, bet
Ed [Redacted]
Sparse, crisp, raw, muscular prose. In his first Lew Archer novel, MacDonald shows himself the equal of Hammett, Chandler, Thompson, Cain or anyone else who wrote in the noir/hardboiled style. MacDonald doesnt have quite the same flair to his writing as Hammett or Chandler, at least not in this first offering, and his plots are not as twisted. I suspect, though, I may end up with MacDonald on the top of my list by the time I am finished with his body of work.

Cathy DuPont
Dec 01, 2012 Cathy DuPont rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love the mystery genre, best of all. And I must almost force myself to get out of my comfort zone and from time to time read a non-fiction; best seller; classic; anything other than a mystery.

With that said, reading the mysteries that I have, it occurred to me that I should do some backtracking and read from the masters of the genre; writers (who proudly claimed to be writers, not authors) and 'just one of the guys.' They thought nothing of 'popping off' with a serial in The Black Mask as an
Jul 28, 2014 F.R. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’d never read any Ross MacDonald, but a recent article in The Guardian - piqued my interest.

Once upon a time he was apparently ranked as part of ‘The Holy Trinity’ of crime writers alongside Hammett and Chandler. Having now read his first Lew Archer novel I’m not sure I’d place him as high as Chandler, but I was mightily impressed with what I found and wonder how I managed to miss him until now.

Archer is hired to find a
Feb 13, 2013 Tfitoby rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: black-as-night
The first of Grandmaster MacDonald's Lew Archer series is pretty much what you would expect from a talented young writer trying to emulate Chandler and Hammett. It's better written than most that followed but it's also derivative and obvious. A solid start but he gets better with age and experience.
Jul 08, 2014 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
THE MOVING TARGET. (1949). Ross Macdonald. ****.
Lew Archer is on the case in this combination novel involving kidnapping and murder. A man named Samson has disappeared and his wife calls in Archer to help find him. They’re used to his disappearance for drunken toots occasionally, but they don’t think that this is the case here. Samson is a very wealthy man. Although he and his family now live in California, he made his money from his oil wells in Texas. His wife doesn’t like him very much, but s
Apr 21, 2014 Andrea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-noir
Three and a half, maybe four stars? I couldn't decide, I liked the writing but suppose I like more heart and less description of breasts, I certainly enjoy Chandler more(who he is so clearly drawing from). The one-liners had me laughing through the book though...and I loved this early description of the canyons up north of L.A.
The light-blue haze in the lower canyon was like a thin smoke from slowly burning money. Even the sea looked precious through it, a solid wedge held in the canyon's mouth,
Rebecca McNutt
Not as good as The Drowning Pool but The Moving Target still has a lot to offer as far as suspense and a gripping plot goes.
Timothy Neesam
Aug 29, 2015 Timothy Neesam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While Philip Marlowe remains the hardboiled detective others must live up to, Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer is certainly up to the challenge. Set in 1940s Southern California, Archer is dry, self-depreciating and follows the trail of clues, wherever it takes him. The writing is clean, spare and surprisingly filled with colour (I always read this kind of book thinking in black and white) and while some of the characters exist just to move the plot along, the dialogue really crackles. I won't spoil ...more
May 02, 2015 Molly rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Maybe I need to try another, later book by MacDonald. I was hoping for snappy dialogue and a speedy plot but this one is full of flat prose and cringe-inducing racism and misogyny. And yet, there are some surprising passages including a spectacular scene between a vain, alcoholic, aging starlet and the main character. The detective tries to gain her trust on a long night of bar crawling from one seedy establishment to another and finds he becomes uncomfortably aware of his own failings along the ...more
Jan 04, 2015 Sawyer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For most of the book, I was asking myself "why is this book rated highly on Goodreads." The story was not all that interesting. I wasn't in love with the characters. The description was great in places, but average most of the time. I can't say I ever really felt off balance, or skillfully misdirected. Later MacDonald books, some relatively obscure, are far better at these basic tasks.

About 2/3 of the way through, though, Mr. MacDonald distinguished himself with exceptional character depth. He w
This first full-length novel about the surprisingly introverted and philosophical Southern Californian private detective Lew Archer shows Ross Macdonald further refining his style to something at least the equal of Hammett and Chandler, possibly even a case of the student besting the masters.

Following the short stories compiled in "The Name Is Archer" by taking as its central theme the shadow side of post-WW2 America's prosperity, the plot here revolves around an eccentric oil baron who disappea
Richard Ward
Feb 15, 2014 Richard Ward rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first Lew Archer was published the same year as the first Mike Hammer, and I wonder if they were twins separated at birth. Both series are hardboiled to the extreme, breaking new ground within the genre.

I'm not entertained by much of the new ground, though, broken in this book, since I prefer murder mysteries with little to no sexual content. It's shocking, even today, to see this much sexuality in a book from 1949. Agatha Christie this ain't. I can only imagine how readers of the day must

Ian Tregillis
I've been eager to take Ross Macdonald for a spin. It's part of my ongoing flirtation with detective stories of the 30s-50s, which is itself part of my larger (newfound) fascination with the elements of noir fiction. Macdonald's Lew Archer novels came highly recommended to me by folks who are both better read and more knowledgeable than I. (Not exactly a rare combination, I admit.)

The story here is straightforward. Plotwise, it didn't throw any surprises to me, particularly after reading up on C
Apr 24, 2008 Jen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel was originally published in 1949. It is the story of Lew Archer, a private eye, hired to find a missing and wealthy millionaire, Ralph Sampson. The novel takes place in the Los Angeles, California area.

I enjoyed the plot. It was one that constantly kept you guessing. Archer is hired by Sampson's wife, who seems to be a bit indifferent to Sampson's disappearance, making her appear guilty. As characters are added to the plot, they all seem to have some characteristic that makes them a
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Phillip Thurlby
Starting to feel like the closest thing to Chandler, Ross MacDonald writes with a good deal of the classic wit and metaphor and what is lacking is made up for in colorful characters and social insight.

This follows the classic MacDonald mold of being a family drama disguised as a detective story and really focuses in on the sadness and bitterness that can be encountered by the rich and well-to-do. Lew Archer tries to maintain a professional distance but has all the humanism of Marlowe and is inev
Tom Mathews
The first Lew Archer book written by Ross MacDonald is also the first Lew Archer book that I have read. It is a delightfully crafted story of kidnapping and murder featuring the quintessential hard-boiled PI who combines his wits and fists to solve the case. I found MacDonald's writing and story very reminiscent of Raymond Chandler's, my favorite. I will definitely be looking to read more of Archer's cases in the future.
Jan 22, 2015 Mike rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting read. The first half is slow, but the action and suspense are ratchet up in the second half. Ross MacDonald"s Lew Archer is a philosopher gumshoe much like John MacDonald's Travis McGee. I enjoyed those parts of the story. The rest was pretty pedestrian. An unenthusiastic 3 stars for this book.
Dec 22, 2015 Thomas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Since this is the first Lew Archer book, and thus the start of a series that would come to be described by many leading critics the "best series of detective novels ever written," you'd think The Moving Target would draw some attention - seventeen Lew Archer books would follow this one, so obviously Macdonald must've gotten something right with this one. Yet TMT is typically regarded with the mention that it is the first Archer, and that his style at this point was "a lot like Chandler."

After re
The Cannibal
Sep 06, 2015 The Cannibal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lew Archer, ancien flic, est devenu un privé. Sa prochaine mission, s’il accepte : retrouver Ralph Sampson le multimillionnaire dont on ne sait s’il a fait une fugue volontaire ou si on l’a enlevé. C’est Darty mon kiki !

Conseil : on ne doit pas ouvrir un Lew Archer pour son intrigue ou son tempo d’enfer, les deux étant secondaires.

Non pas que l’enquête soit bâclée, lente, à chier ou capillotractée, loin de là, mais ici, le plus important, c’est toute la galerie de personnages qui gravite autour
Angela DiPerri
I am not familiar with the genre but got an email from Shelf Awareness that recommended Ross Macdonald's The Blue Hammer and thought I'd give it a go. After reading this book, I don't think it's the genre (noir mystery) for me. This is one of the earliest of his books in the Lew Archer series and it left me feeling kind of flat. I didn't feel much empathy for any of the characters, they weren't particularly well fleshed out though the author does use some psychological analysis to try and reveal ...more
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
The film of this book, "Harper", didn't make a lot of sense when I saw it; at first I thought it was because I didn't see it in English, but seeing the original version didn't help much. I read the book hoping it would tie up some of the plentiful loose threads left hanging in the film. It does.

A wealthy, hard drinking man with nothing to do but let those petrodollars roll in goes missing. His invalid wife seems to want him found simply so she can remain in control of her private world, while hi
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Goodreads Librari...: New edition of 'The Moving Target' 3 14 May 06, 2014 01:14PM  
  • The High Window
  • The Continental Op
  • I, the Jury  (Mike Hammer,  #1)
  • The Name of the Game Is Death (Drake, #1)
  • The Bride Wore Black
  • Dark Passage
  • The Hot Spot
  • The Wrong Case
  • Dirty Snow
  • A Swell-Looking Babe
  • Solomon's Vineyard
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 Drowning Pool (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard)
  • 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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“No one looks at the mountains. But they were there, making them all look silly.” 8 likes
“I like a little danger. Tame danger, controlled by me. It gives me a sense of power, I guess, to take my life in my hands and know damn well I’m not going to lose it.” 7 likes
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