Tony's Reviews > The Galton Case

The Galton Case by Ross Macdonald
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Aug 29, 11

bookshelves: fiction-crime-detection
Read in August, 2011

Macdonald, Ross. THE GALTON CASE. (1959). ****.
I recently came across a list compiled by John Connolly and Declan Hughes entitled: “Ten Crime Novels You Must Read Before You Die” (or something like that). These are both fine writers and I was interested to see what they had come up with. they did indeed have ten titles in bold print, but they cheated and had about fifteen to twenty more as second thoughts. In their second thoughts list, I found two Macdonald novels that I hadn’t read – even though I thought that I had read all of him. This is the first of the two. Lew Archer, Macdonald’s private eye, has been retained by a lawyer of an extremely wealthy older woman to find her son and grandson. It seems that they parted ways twenty years ago after a disagreement over the woman he had picked to marry and the fact that he didn’t want to be controlled by her money. Archer traces the son, finally, to a small town and the house that he and his wife and son used to live in. They were gone years ago. What happened, though, is that the strip of cottages that comprised their neighborhood was being razed to build a large shopping mall. It was then discovered that there was a skeleton buried under what was once the son’s house. At least it was assumed that it was the son, because the head of the skeleton was missing. After a long process, the remaining skeleton was finally identified as the son’s. At the same time, a young man turns up in the town who looks like the long lost grandson, and is convinced by his former neighbors and acquaintances that he was indeed the grandson. It seems that he was deposited in an orphanage when he was four-years-old, and never saw his mother again. He did manage to send off for a copy of his birth certificate, but that only proved that he was born under the name assumed by his father when he was living – after he had left his ancestral home. Evidence builds up that this young man is the true grandson, and the grandmother is ecstatic. He stands to inherit all her wealth when she dies because she immediately changes her will. Archer and the grandmother’s lawyer, however, are not convinced, and suspect that he is playing a role whereby he can work his way into the large fortune that is to be had. Then bodies begin to drop, and Archer has his work cut out for him. This is not at the top of Macdonald’s work. What ruins it is the way he ended it – he tried to tie up all loose ends in the last fifteen pages of the book and rushed the reader to the end. However, it is still a good read from this past master. Recommended.
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