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The Zebra-Striped Hearse

(Lew Archer #10)

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  1,670 ratings  ·  109 reviews
Strictly speaking, Lew Archer is only supposed to dig up the dirt on a rich man's suspicious soon-to-be son-in-law. But in no time at all Archer is following a trail of corpses from the citrus belt to Mazatlan. And then there is the zebra-striped hearse and its crew of beautiful, sunburned surfers, whose path seems to keep crossing the son-in-law's--and Archer's--in a powe ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published March 3rd 1998 by Vintage Crime/Black Lizard (first published 1962)
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4.08  · 
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 ·  1,670 ratings  ·  109 reviews

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Bill  Kerwin
May 20, 2007 rated it really liked it

The Zebra-Striped Hearse is a well-plotted novel, with a few surprising twists and turns. But, unlike most later Archers, although it is an effective mystery, it is not a superior one.

The mediocre mystery features a victim and a half-dozen suspects, each equipped with a shiny red herring. The effective mystery--like Hearse--features two distinct stories: one narrative about the kind of crime we think we are investigating, and one about the kind of crime we discover at story's end. In the truly e
Jun 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
A wealthy guy hired Lew Archer to check on a background of his potential son-in-law. He is suspicions of the latter and would love to find some dirt on him. It also seems that he is the only one who does not like the guy; him and the readers as I did not see the soon groom-to-be as a nice person. Archer began digging only to uncover seemingly unrelated pile of dead bodies instead of any incriminating evidence.

The book was published in early sixties. I was curious and a little afraid to check ho
A very complex, well-plotted noir. It's unfortunate that Macdonald's hero, Lew Archer, is so dry and pedestrian. He has morals and a sense of justice, but somehow seems only peripherally involved in his own actions. The prose is fine, but only momentarily leaps into art, as in the short quotes below.

Another failing here is that almost all the action has already happened in the past, or somewhere other than for Archer to witness. Only a few of the many characters are more than cardboard throw-al
Tim Orfanos
To πιο ψυχογραφικό και λιγότερο hard-boiled αστυνομικό μυθιστόρημα του MacDonald (1962), το οποίο αποδίδει μνεία στη 'Μικρή αδερφή', αφού ο 1ος φόνος γίνεται με παγοθραύστη/παγοκόφτη όπως και στο βιβλίο του Τσάντλερ.

Η ιστορία τοποθετείται στις αρχές στις δεκαετίες του '60, και ένα μεγάλο μέρος της κουλτούρας εκείνης της εποχής διαφαίνεται σχεδόν σε όλο το μυθιστόρημα μέσω αναφορών στη νοοτροπία του surfing, στις ελεύθερες κοινωνικές και ερωτικές σχέσεις, στην αντίδραση στο συμβατικό τρόπο ζωής,
Oct 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First things first, why is it called ‘The Zebra-Striped Hearse’? Yes, Archer does encounter the titular vehicle, but it’s hardly of crucial importance to the story, at best only tangential to the investigation.

So why name the whole book after it?

Of course the most simple and Occam’s Razor answer is that once MacDonald coined the phrase he really, really liked it. But it seems lazy to just stop there, so I’m going to push further. This is noticeably a novel about the generation gap. More than onc
Jun 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I had to pull a momentary rip cord on my Ross Macdonald Chronological Reading Society of One and bail out of The Doomsters for this one. I'll go back and finish it, The Galton Case, and The Wycherly Woman before moving on to The Chill. But it's summer, and the upcoming meeting of my Surf Noir Summer Supper Club/Alliteration Protection Society called. I stripped my responsibilities to their skivvies and took the plunge.

First, what's sorta fun about this book is the extratextual history: set in J
M.L. Rudolph
Jun 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: who-done-ems
1962. The tenth Lew Archer novel, California, early sixties, pre-hippies, WWII still well-remembered, freeways under construction, roads uncrowded, the border with Mexico safe and porous, and a woman walks into Archer's office concerned about her ex. The ex, a Colonel Blackwell, arrives later, concerned about his daughter, who's fallen for a penniless painter in Mexico. Blackwell hires Archer to check out the painter whom he dislikes, distrusts, and wants out of his daughter's life. The daughter ...more
BOOK 3: Mid-20th Century Crime Readathon
Here, I move from McBain's 1954 "Cut Me In" to 1962.
HOOK=2 stars: A mother and father (Colonel Blackwell) argue about their daughter's (Harriet) choice for a husband. This age-old trope simply isn't original.
PACE=3: Solid and steady.
PLOT=4: It appears that a man named 'Burke Damis' has killed and taken on the identity of the dead 'Quincy Ralph Simpson', who was killed with an ice pick through the heart. Did Davis do it? If so, why? And why was the body bur
Timothy Maples
Jul 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent detective novel. Macdonald was one of the best modern American writers.
Feb 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery
In 2008 I wrote this: "I think this is the best detective novel ever written. That takes some qualification and explanation, but I mean as a detective novel, with the emphasis more on 'detective' than 'novel'. I think the wrap-up is perfect. I've read the story maybe four times in the last twenty five years, and just finished it again yesterday. Besides the marvelous plot, there is marvelous development of character, marvelous witty observations, and the beginnings of the deeper psychological th ...more

If you want to know what the story is about besides that it is a classic, hardboiled detective novel that dates from 1962--so expect women to be written pretty much the way they were in these sorts of novels back then--nothing contemporary about it, read the blurb ;).

This is the first Lew Archer book that I can remember reading (quite possible I've read him before and forgotten), and I liked it better than I thought I would. Truth be told, I read it for the Z,because it was shortish and it w
Feb 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Let's get this out of the way from the start: "The Zebra-Striped Hearse" is a horrible name. The name 'technically' makes sense with the story but the name is just so bad that it's distracting...if that makes any sense.

Now the book itself, I found delightful. A great mystery from start to finish that had so many twists and turns that I honestly kept guessing down to the last every pages. Macdonald really put Archer through his paces in this one. I can't think of another book where Archer had to
Barksdale Penick
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is one fine tale. I sometimes find with detective stories that the plot gets a little too twisty and since it is meant as a light read I don't want to pay full attention, but this book has a clear path along the way to resolution. And many fine turns of phrase. One of the better ones I can recall
Mar 04, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries, owned
Pretty good P.I. mystery but the solution became clear to me about 80% through (which I view as a negative in a mystery book).
Carla Remy
Aug 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Ross Macdonald's mysteries are always so satisfying I'm tempted to call him the best. This one is from 1961.
Mar 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
When trying to fill out my detective fiction reading with a broad spectrum spread across more than two decades I stumbled across the names Russ Macdonald and Lew Archer. While The Underground Man seems to be most frequently cited as Macdonald’s best work to feature PI Lew Archer (along with The Chill) I was unable to acquire a copy and instead “settled” for the Edgar Award Winning The Zebra Striped Hearse. While it lacks the incisive social commentary frequently attributed to The Underground Man ...more
May 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I am on new ground here. Although I read The Drowning Pool many years ago, what I knew then about Ross Macdonald, I have forgotten. The Zebra-Striped Hearse is an intricately plotted novel about a whole series of interconnected murders. Until half the book is finished, the suspect is one man, a painter variously named Simpson, Damis, or Campion -- and then the suspicion starts shifting all over the place. Before you've finished the novel you will have reason to suspect everyone, maybe even Detec ...more
Jul 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Really enjoyed the 2 books I've read by him. Sue Grafton said he influenced her writng, so I checked him out. Set in southern CA, it's fun to learn about my adopted home during that time. I enjoy his thought process, and the dialogue as he interviews witnesses and suspects.
MacDonald's books have helped inspire new generations of writers -- from Robert B. Parker and Sue Grafton, to Roger Simon, Jonathan Kellerman, S.J. Rozan, James Ellroy, and Richard Barre.

"Macdonald's writing added psychologi
Feb 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have been wanting to dip into Macdonald's Lew Archer series, and happened to find a cheap copy of one of the Library of America editions of his work (three novels of the 1960s), so I started with this one. I have no idea whether it's a good or bad starting point, but it's certainly a good mystery, with plenty of twists and turns. Lots of good character work and scene setting (as the hunt takes Archer from LA to Mexico to SF and Lake Tahoe). Looking forward to reading more of these.
T. Sullivan
Jul 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Lots of plot twists in this book, the final two caught me by surprise. Wonderfully plotted, excellent descriptions of Lake Tahoe, Central and Southern California, and Mexico. The characters were wonderfully developed. My second Macdonald/Lew Archer book, both have been outstanding and I'm hoping to read all in the series. Can't believe I hadn't discovered Ross Macdonald earlier, but better late than never.
Sep 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery-thriller
This was one of the more convoluted Macdonald plots, perhaps packed with one character and several red herrings too many. I'm glad he wrote this in his post-Galton Case phase and you can certainly see the grief he has for his lost daughter written in the subtext of the novel. I was edging towards 3.5 but the last thirty pages salvage it and, like usual, the man sticks the landing. I wouldn't use this as a Lew Archer gateway and it will likely qualify as one of my least favorite in the series but ...more
Jan 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
4,5 , well-constructed rolling plot changing suspects,suspictions,names, overlaying new traces and mysteries with purpose not to implode but outward going questions and covered with complicated half-true whether irresponsible human beings and witnesses through the storyline more dazing, intricating,misleading & mistaking PI ( and police-but police is only sideways part for investigation ) towards the surpising revealed end, uprising with 2 accidental events - who are coat on beach and "like ...more
Edward Keller
Sep 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Another installment in the Lew Archer saga. The usual oedipal psycho-drama, but this time without the dry humor or the adrenaline action moments. Just the sober pessimism. Didn't work for me. Ross Macdonald is no Tolstoy or Dostoevsky, and only by balancing the narrative with quality genre moments does he reach his peak. Like King and Straub also look a hair away from real literature, but this impression collapses if they really do throw out the quality genre smoke and mirror with which they cre ...more
Patrick O'Neil
Jun 15, 2010 rated it liked it
When I was still in grad school I attended a class about Ross MacDonald taught by a fellow student as his senior lecture. I thought I knew who MacDonald was, but it turned out I was confusing him with another detective mystery writer named John D. MacDonald - a writer I had read as a teenager, but didn't remember being that impressed with. My friend's lecture had an almost lyrical quality to it - poetically rhapsodizing MacDonald's talents as if accompanied by a Chet Baker sound track. It perked ...more
Victoria Moore
Mar 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer detective mystery, "The Zebra-Striped Hearse" was one of the strangest, but creative, film noir stories I've ever read. Set in California and Mexico the main detective, Lew Archer, brought to mind Humphrey Bogart in "The Maltese Falcon" and Jack Nicholson in "Chinatown". Stylish, in a vintage late '50's/early '60's way, the plot was contemporary enough to hold up since its initial publication. It would even be an excellent choice for a contemporary screenplay created ...more
Brian Sweetman
Dec 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
An Oldie but Goldie... Xmas is prefect for revisiting Lew Archer.
Nov 24, 2016 added it
Talk about a page-tuner, this book grabbed me from page one, and I could not stop. So had to get up early on Thanksgiving to finish this tantalizing mystery. Once again, blown away by the cast of fascinating female characters -- both Isobel and Harriet are so persuasively drawn, and thr plot, of course, superb. Bad news is I am coming to the end of Lew Archer mysteries.
the gift
141110: late masterpiece. wonderfully complicated plot unearths years of duplicity, misbehavior, dysfunctional family relationships. all perhaps symbolized by the use of the titular vehicle as a surfers’ car...
Buckley Fountain
Typically great Mac

...weaving three families and generations of mistakes into a complex tale of murder. Love his meandering style as Archer discovers the past and its ineradicable clues to the present.
David Gómez
Apr 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lee mi reseña en Cruce de Caminos
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Play Book Tag: The Zebra-STriped Hearse by Ross Macdonald 3.5 stars 1 12 Aug 24, 2018 05:37PM  

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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,

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 (Lew Archer #2)
  • The Way Some People Die
  • The Ivory Grin (Lew Archer #4)
  • Find a Victim
  • The Barbarous Coast
  • The Doomsters
  • The Galton Case
  • The Wycherly Woman