Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Galton Case” as Want to Read:
The Galton Case
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Galton Case

(Lew Archer #8)

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  2,560 ratings  ·  194 reviews
Almost twenty years have passed since Anthony Galton disappeared, along with a suspiciously streetwise bride and several thousand dollars of his family's fortune. Now Anthony's mother wants him back and has hired Lew Archer to find him. What turns up is a headless skeleton, a boy who claims to be Galton's son, and a con game whose stakes are so high that someone is still w ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published November 26th 1996 by Vintage Crime/Black Lizard (first published 1959)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Galton Case, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Rating details
Sort: Default
Bill  Kerwin
May 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing

This is the first great Lew Archer novel, and it has all the important Ross Macdonald themes: money, family betrayal, a masquerade, and a crime in the present linked to a crime in the past.

There are two things that make this novel great. The first is that, in diction, style and plot structure, it is as carefully realized as any poem. Every line of dialogue, every bit of description, contributes to the beauty of the whole. It is almost without flaw: for me, the only memorable blot is a slightly c
Jun 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
A wealthy couple disowned their only son who was too liberal for them. Twenty years passed and the guy seemed to disappear from the face of the Earth. Now his dying mother wanted to have reconciliation with him so she hired Lew Archer through her attorney for seemingly hopeless lost person search. Archer actually did not even have time to agree to the job before the first dead body dropped by to say hi.

My biggest complaint about the previous book was the actual lack of investigation by Archer. T
Aug 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime-fiction
When detective Lew Archer is hired to find the long-missing son of a wealthy dying woman, the case seems simple enough . . . but before you know it, there's a juicy murder, a headless skeleton, and plenty of dames in tight-fitting clothing. Things become pretty convoluted, but Macdonald keeps it all darned entertaining.

This was a highly enjoyable outing in a series that demands further investigation.
Jun 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
“The apparent facts, if you like. I'm not a philosopher. We lawyers don't deal in ultimate realities. Who knows what they are? We deal in appearances.”
― Ross Macdonald, The Galton Case


Ross Macdonald definitely dances down the same literary streets as Hammett and Chandler. This hardboiled detective novel, the 8th in the Lew Archer series, feels like it was written in one continuous sitting (that is a good thing).

'The Galton Case' has a naked narrative intensity that is well-supported by its wit
The first half of the book is terrific, and the twist in the middle is good, just what you'd expect from a top detective story.

Unfortunately, the pacing slides and as we approach the conclusion, the writing becomes almost a laundry list of rushed explanations, as if MacDonald were bored with this book.

And I was not surprised by the ending at all, sadly.

Update: His book "Find a Victim" is worse, but with some moments of brilliant prose.
Mar 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
For a writer, reading Ross MacDonald can be an intimidating experience destined to cause vast amounts of envy. The simplicity and yet stark beauty of his prose; the sheer perfect poetry of his descriptions; the way he can do so much with just a few lines of dialogue – like his one time friend and mentor, Raymond Chandler, MacDonald is able to lift genre fiction to a place where it becomes literature.

The Galton Case sees MacDonald’s private eye, Lew Archer, investigate a twenty year old missing
Harry Kane
Jun 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Some authors I read for the plot. Some for the characters. Some for the atmosphere. And some for the prose. Simenon is for atmosphere. Ross is for prose. Like many others I'm reading the Archer books chronologically, starting with the first one. There are many signs in the first books that Ross Macdonald is a phenomenon, but generally it was like a more insecure Chandler, surrounding himself like an octopus with ink with too many strained metaphors and far too poetic descriptions. Not as much as ...more
Sep 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
“I hate coincidences.”—Lew Archer

This was my first read in the Lew Archer series, and I had heard positive comments about this and the series in general prior to my read. After finishing, I’m glad this series has been brought to my attention and I’ll definitely look into more in the series.

The Galton Case involves Archer being summoned to help an elderly woman track down her son (Anthony) who has been missing for some twenty years. It seems that, along with Anthony Galton, a sum of the family
BOOK 146 - Mid-20th Century North American Crime Readathon - Round 6
My understanding is that this novel is on the auto-fiction side: apparently, the missing person in this novel represents Macdonald's missing father. That certainly adds an interesting dimension.
HOOK - 3: P.I. Lew Archer is hired by a lawyer to find a missing Galton family member. Given the auto-fiction element, I kept thinking perhaps that Macdonald, through Archer, was working through his own emotions, perhaps putting it all on
Tim Orfanos
Ίσως, το καλύτερο μυθιστόρημα του McDonald με 'δυνατούς' διαλόγους και στοιχειωτική ατμόσφαιρα - Μια έξυπνη παρουσίαση της 'σκοτεινής' πλευράς της Αμερικής των τελών της δεκαετίας του '50 - Το πιο γρήγορο σε ροή και στην εξέλιξη της πλοκής βιβλίο του MacDonald (1959).

Το στοιχείο που κάνει εντύπωση από την αρχή είναι οι έξυπνοι και δημιουργικοί διάλογοι μεταξύ των ηρώων. Ο αναγνώστης έρχεται αντιμέτωπος με την στοιχειωτική ατμόσφαιρα που κυριαρχεί στα σπίτια των χαρακτήρων και, ειδικά, στη μυστη
Nov 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Private Detective enthusiasts; Ross Macdonald fans
This -the 8th entry in the series- might be my favorite Lew Archer but I've said the same thing about three other previous entries.

This is another missing persons case. The going gets pretty brutal what with a couple of murders and a very violent beat-down but it's character rich. I genuinely enjoyed the way Macdonald/Millar developed his characters, giving them histories and unexpected motives.

Plenty of highly quotable passages but as I paused somewhere around chapter five to read another book
Nancy Oakes
Twisty little book, for sure, with an ending that I wasn't expecting. More when I get back on Monday.
Aug 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone

I read my first Lew Archer novel just a couple of weeks ago and was very impressed. "The Galton Case" reinforces all of the good things that I said previously; "Ross Macdonald" could write extremely well. The prose is distinctive, powerful and sensuous. Where else does the detective get hired (page 9) because an old friend claims, "...I trust you to handle this affair with some degree of urbanity"? Urbanity! It wasn't a common expression in the 40s, 50s or any decade. And how about this lush par
Sep 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The whole novel is like one big con job. On the reader. Ross Macdonald is a great con artist. He distracts the reader with over the top similes (a blonde in a pink robe gleamed like a mirage) and hilarious tongue in cheek dialog (I am captain Nemo, I just came ashore from a hostile submarine) while he spins an utterly preposterous plot that would put some Bollywood screenwriters to shame.

A rich woman on her death bed wants to reconcile with her long lost son (a naive but talented writer) who ma
If you don't especially like the Ross Macdonald novels you keep reading, don't give up because eventually you will find one you really enjoy! For me it was this.

While it wasn't at all the main point, a lot of this book seemed to be about how it sucks to be a woman. It did an amazing job of showing a changing California, and I loved seeing this view of my home state in a transitional stage before my own day. Plus an awesome plot that kept ahead of me without dirty tricks and Archer in top form. G
George K.
May 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-mystery
Τελευταία φορά που διάβασα βιβλίο του Ρος Μακντόναλντ ήταν τον Μάρτιο του 2014, ενώ και γενικά Αμερικάνικα αστυνομικά νουάρ των δεκαετιών του '50 και του '60 είχα επίσης καιρό να διαβάσω. Όπως ήταν λογικό, μου έλειψε πολύ το εξαιρετικό και μοναδικό στιλ του συγγραφέα, που μπορώ να πω ότι είναι στο ίδιο επίπεδο με τον μαιτρ του είδους, Ρέιμοντ Τσάντλερ.

Η υπόθεση Γκάλτον είναι μια άκρως μπερδεμένη ιστορία απάτης και εγκλήματος, με τον ψύχραιμο και άνετο Λου Άρτσερ να αναλαμβάνει να βγάλει μια άκρη
Mar 30, 2013 rated it liked it
A couple months back Gillian Flynn name-checked Ross Macdonald's work. Let me check. Yes, here it is.

My home library has a shelf devoted entirely to Macdonald. You can pick up almost any book in his sun-dazzled Lew Archer series and enjoy mid-century California noir like no other.

She's right, and reading MacDonald again after the Flynn catalog highlights the former's influence on the latter. Flynn's not derivative, don't get me wrong. She just knows good w
Sep 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries
A very good entry in the Lew Archer PI series with an extra twist at the end.
Jun 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: shadow-man
The Galton Case actually shares many genes with its ancestor, The Moving Target, the first Archer book. This one uses the same structure and the same private eye, but the big difference here is that The Galton Caseapplies James's "lucid reflector" strategy to Archer, yielding something far removed from Chandler's neon-tube metaphors and half-serious gangster slang. Instead, it yields something much closer to the "literary novel" (read: "psychoanalytic novel") of the last eighty years. Expect Cha ...more
Nov 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Ross Macdonald wrote about money, family, and betrayal in twenty Lew Archer novels. Archer, a retired police sergeant, works as a private investigator in Southern California in the late 40s through the early 60s. This book sees Archer searching for a wealthy family's outcast son, missing for over twenty years. Hired by the family lawyer, whose thug of a house man is murdered shortly after Archer is hired, the family's for which Archer now works is every bit as unpleasant as the one that hired Ph ...more
Jul 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
This may be my favorite Lew Archer novel yet. The plot is complex without being convoluted. The prose is sparse yet elegant and beautiful. The protagonist is flawed yet fascinating. The villains all have understandable motivations and feel REAL.

This book has some real stakes for Archer and without spoiling anything he is forever changed by the time the book is done.

Some complain about this one having a few too many twists but Macdonald earned every one of them. This was has the holy trinity of n
Steven Godin
Oct 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime, america, fiction, noir
L.A Private eye Lew Archer takes on a case for the Galton family to try and find Anthony Galton missing for more than twenty years, he doesn't have high hopes and thinks it's a waste of time but follows through anyway on bits and pieces of information that first sends him to San Francisco to pick up a trail, where we go from here is classic detective fiction territory with a complex plot to rival Chandler or Hammett, the mystery/suspense of a Hitchcock movie and a mixed bag of characters where n ...more
the gift
later addition: crime fiction as comfort reading? well something like that, great plot, promises and cynicism both reversed, play the game. it has been some time since the first reading, but it definitely holds up. raymond chandler approvingly claims dashiell hammet brought crime out of the salon and down to the streets... i would suggest macdonald brought crime into the living room...

first review: this is a bourgeois fairy tale, mistaken identity, mistaken childhood, of being a prince or a paup
Jul 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Mystery fans, detective fiction buffs
Fantastic. MacDonald clearly steps out from the shadow of Raymond Chandler with this book. Less cynical and conflicted than Chandler's Philip Marlowe, Lew Archer fits the template of the jaded private eye, but with a more resigned, is-what-it-is outlook on life and corruption. The writing style is less dense and elaborate than Chandler's, but still effective in its bleak starkness. A great novel, not just a great detective novel.
Sep 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery
This is one of the best plotted mysteries in detective fiction I have ever read! The writing is very clean and elegant to with some excellent turns of phrase for genre fiction!
Carla Remy
May 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I love Ross Macdonald.
Dec 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
there are many twists in this story. it takes a long time for Archer to get people to start telling the truth, and then all of the pieces reveal a story of some terribly sad people who keep making choices that only trap them further. beautifully written.
Sep 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: i-own
As someone who has read all of Hammett and most of Chandler twice, I’m grateful for Ross Macdonald.
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
Feb 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A truly great noir novel with a surprisingly upbeat ending. The plot is complex but superbly put together, and Macdonald's prose is is a virtuoso performance, economical, evocative and memorable. Look to the passage about a sort of beat poet's recital at a jazz club for proof that here is one the great prose stylists of the genre, or any genre.
Oct 13, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery-crime
It's been said about RM that his books are not about crime, but about sin. The distinction resists easy explanation, but on a gut level, it seems like a fitting one, particularly in this book.

This is my second crack at RM, after a 25+ yr interval, and I have pretty much same reaction as I did to first 3 -- actually 2 1/2 -- of his novels I read: good stories with plausible but not predictable plot twists, distinct narrative voice (no small feat in a genre stuffed with stoical tough guys), and a
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Classic Trash: Finished (Spoilers) 6 11 Sep 18, 2012 06:57PM  
Classic Trash: In progress (no spoilers) 3 8 Sep 02, 2012 06:23PM  
  • The Continental Op
  • The Wrong Case
  • Solomon's Vineyard
  • A Hell of a Woman
  • Night Has a Thousand Eyes
  • Playback (Philip Marlowe, #7)
  • Nightfall
  • Ride the Pink Horse
  • The Name of the Game Is Death (Drake, #1)
  • The Big Clock
  • Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith
  • The Blunderer
  • Homicide Trinity (Nero Wolfe, #36)
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,

Other books in the series

Lew Archer (1 - 10 of 20 books)
  • The Name Is Archer
  • The Moving Target (Lew Archer #1)
  • The Drowning Pool (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard) (Lew Archer #2)
  • The Way Some People Die
  • The Ivory Grin (Lew Archer #4)
  • Find a Victim
  • The Barbarous Coast
  • The Doomsters
  • The Wycherly Woman
  • The Zebra-Striped Hearse
“I wondered if we were doing him a favor. The Galton household had hot and cold running money piped in from an inexhaustible reservoir. But money was never free. Like any other commodity, it had to be paid for.” 1 likes
“We had reached the foot of Sable's hill. Howell wrestled his car up the climbing curves. The tires shuddered and screeched like lost souls under punishment.” 1 likes
More quotes…