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

The Ivory Grin (Lew Archer #4)

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating details ·  1,607 Ratings  ·  102 Reviews
A hard-faced woman clad in a blue mink stole and dripping with diamonds hires Lew Archer to track down her former maid, who she claims has stolen her jewelry. Archer can tell he's being fed a line, but curiosity gets the better of him and he accepts the case. He tracks the wayward maid to a ramshackle motel in a seedy, run-down small town, but finds her dead in her tiny ro ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published July 10th 2007 by Vintage Crime/Black Lizard (first published 1952)
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 Ivory Grin, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Ivory Grin

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Bill  Kerwin
May 20, 2007 rated it really liked it

This, the fourth novel in the Lew Archer series, is very good but not exceptional (at least not according to the standards of this exceptional series). It does, however, have all the ingredients of a good mystery, and is graced with Macdonald's strengths such as his vivid cameos (the old invalid black woman whose hobbies are listening to the radio and her neighbors' business; a middle-aged milliner relaxing with a glass of wine and her cat; a decent small town sheriff distrustful of big city det
May 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
A wealthy-looking woman
A wealthy woman
came to hire Lew Archer to find her missing maid who supposedly stole some of her jewelry.
A maid
She sounded fishy for everybody with intellect higher than that of a six-year-old child, so Archer had his reservations about taking the assignment, but it sounded simple and harmless enough - he was to just tail the maid
A tail
and report on the people she saw to his client - so he accepted. As a special bonus for accepting the questionable assignment he gets to witness and participate in
Apr 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is the first time Archer went all sociologically profound on our genre-loving asses, and there's pros and cons. The good news is that Macdonald's racially tinged plot doesn't browbeat us with the politics, unlike, say, every episode of COLD CASE to ever feature an African-American. On the downside, it's pretty clear that Macdonald's knowledge of the Af-Am experience fell somewhere between Huggy Bear of Starsky & Hutch and Rog & Rerun on What's Happening!!!, with a little Esther Roll ...more
James  Love
Lewis Archer is hired to track a nurse passing for white and discovers her body in a run down motel.

Macdonald attacks the racism and police brutality of 1950's California with dark humor and dry wit.
Cathy DuPont
Oct 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
It didn't take me long to recall that I had read this book but heh, it's Ross Macdonald. That's THE Ross Macdonald one of the icons of the hard-boiled/pulp world. One of the writers that today's most popular authors say was an influence in their decision and desire to write mysteries/thrillers/detective books.

Lew Archer is the name of this P.I. who uses his head to solve complicated mysteries of "whodunit."

I've copied this from Wiki, which read my mind except the naming of Lew. Now that mystery
Dec 30, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: black-as-night
Perhaps high expectations of Ross MacDonald's stuff is responsible for this book not rocking my world. I enjoyed it but there was something lacking that would've made me love it. So far I can't really put my finger on what it was.

Lew Archer is a great protagonist for the genre; a mean, self serving PI with a penchant for hard boiled dialogue.

Ross MacDonald's prose is filled with fantastic observations of both people and places.

The plot is wonderfully convoluted, not too confusing but not too str
Debbi Mack
Nov 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Ross Macdonald was nothing if not a gifted stylist when it came to writing prose. THE IVORY GRIN starts off with a tension-filled meeting between the protagonist, private eye Lew Archer, and an unpleasant (in attitude and looks), but well-dressed, woman who wants to hire him.

You know the kind of person Archer's dealing with when he says that she "looked up at me with the air of an early bird surveying an outsize worm," then goes on to state that after giving him a handshake "as hard as a man's .
Oct 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Unlike the recent Thompson book The Grifters (set in the same time period and locations) which I found a bit too Dostoevsky-like, Ross MacDonald delivers well crafted, excellently plotted novels that leave one little to doubt as to the skill of this author. Many a writer of mystery/crime novels have MacDonald on their favorites reading list (I researched this, and in fact came to MacDonald because of this).

Unlike Burke who brings a certain sense of literature to his Robicheaux novels, MacDonald'
Борислав Белдев
Типичен, класически Чандлъров стил, живописен и образен. Но скучноват сюжет, който не ме грабна особено.
Srinivas Veeraraghavan
Apr 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
I had been waiting to get my hands on the great man's books for months (nearly a year) and the wait had been "excruciatingly beautiful" if I could describe it thus.

Had read only 3 of his novels before and loved 'em so my appetite was fully whetted by the time I grabbed 4 of his rare Omnibus editions.

Started with "The Ivory Grin" and I experienced "one of those days" where the rest of the things and the people around you seem utterly insignificant. Yes, I was in "the Zone" as the more articulate
Jul 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: crime-mystery
(The five-stars here, of course, is relative to the genre..., not to Proust)

MacDonald's mastery of his craft is evident on nearly every page here - both in the writing, and in the construction and characterization and believablity. Everything I find lacking in science fiction, I find present in crime fiction... including a certain moral tenderness.

In the Ivory Grin, RM also deals with the issue of race - circa 1952 -- and though he writes as a white man, and pretends nothing else, he has an eye
Jan 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
I got so much deja vu reading this, because I read Strangers in Town first (a short story with a similar plot) - but long enough ago that I forgot many of the details. there are many characters and many stories. the story is quite grim and tragic, with so many characters who have lived their lives wrong and don't know how to live with the regret. the title refers to a set piece that's particularly disturbing...
Oct 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very good early Archer, with strong, nuanced characters, and a surprisingly even-handed view of race issues—it’s disturbing how relevant the concerns of the black characters are, 65 years later.
Larry Piper
Mar 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, after all the sweetness and light of Heidi, I figured I needed to return to the dark side, so to speak. So, more noir detective fiction for me.

So, a mysterious, rich woman, just "Una" (later we learn it's Durano, or sometimes, Larkin) comes to Archer to ask him to find her maid, Lucy Champion. She says Ms. Champion (who could pass for white if she so chose) stole something from her. During the looking around, Archer comes across another P.I., Max Heiss (aka Julian Desmond) who is also loo
Apr 20, 2017 rated it liked it
I'm on a mission to read the Ross Macdonald Lew Archer series in publication order. The Ivory Grin (1952) is number four. (I got this bug after buying It’s All One Case: The Illustrated Ross Macdonald Archives, a visual feast for fans) In the great Books to Die For Irish mystery author John Connelly notes that once Macdonald became successful, that is when he wasn't writing solely for money, he managed to shed the shadow of Raymond Chandler. It's certainly true that many of the first books see ...more
Apr 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Another strong entry in the "Lew Archer" series from Ross Macdonald. This one dealt with some racial issues and was written in the early fifties so I was worried I was in store for some good ole' fashioned awkwardness but for the most part Macdonald did a good job of not being too preachy but unfortunately his knowledge and ideas about African American's is dicey at best.

The book rallies, however, with some great writing, characterization and a whiz-bang plot that keeps you engaged. However, for
Jim Thomas
Apr 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2015
Struggled to build some interest in an Adrian McKinty novel, got bogged down. That was probably to be expected since I'd just read Chandler and virtually anything is a step down from Chandler so I grabbed the author, the only one I think, who is in the same class as Hammett and Chandler, Ross Macdonald, and read it in less than 48 hrs. Not his best. The Chill by Macdonald is in a class of it's own and Black Money, Macdonald's own favorite is considered his F. Scott Fitzgerald inspired masterwork ...more
May 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Continuing to read the Lew Archer novels in order. Ross Macdonald is a master of hardboiled detective fiction, perfecting what Hammett and Chandler started--but it took him a while to warm up. After three promising but flawed offerings, he hits his stride in this fourth novel.

Archer is hired to track down a thieving maid. He doesn't trust his client--a rich but vulgar woman--but he takes the job anyway. Soon, the maid turns up dead, and Archer is scrambling to find out what happened and make sur
Paul Wilson
Feb 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Lew Archer is probably the best of the old school PI detective series, topping Hammett's Sam Spade and Chandler's Philip Marlowe. Not a popular opinion, but I think MacDonald takes their obvious influences and makes more interesting plots and characters, especially those involving familial betrayals and conspiracies. Plus the mysteries tend to be less labyrinthine and easier to follow (read "The Big Sleep" 10 times, and you still don't know what the hell's going on).

This is only my third or so r
John Mchugh
Nov 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Binge reading 101. Nancy brought home, from our local library's used book store, a Mystery Guild Lost Classics Omnibus hard-cover monster (647 pages) that contains three Ross Macdonald novels - The Ivory Grin (1952), The Zebra Striped Hearse (1962) and The Underground Man (1971). I finished the last one today. So my first bite at the Ross Macdonald apple was a big one. All three were enjoyable, but I especially liked the last two. Complex and compelling plots, involving a cast of equally complex ...more
Mar 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Smart and engrossing noir, a near-extinct style of American writing that will sadly leave us forever once James Elroy retires. Ross MacDonald possessed a full mastery of setting, dialogue, plot and character; he may be nearly forgotten these days and you may only find his novels in shabby secondhand stores, but few other writers ever made a grouchy reader like this guy feel as immersed and convinced of the reality of a novel. MacDonald created atmosphere that I can still taste and imagery that I ...more
Aug 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is as good as it gets. The Ivory Grin is not only a great mystery but one of the best noirs I've read. Lew Archer's on the trail of a runaway maid who knows where more than a few bodies are buried. Along the way Archer has to dodge murderous matrons, two femmes fatales and an insane church going doctor. The action is tight, the writing is sharp and the resolution has more clarity and logic than a million Raymond Chandler novels.
Feb 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Ooooh, how grisly! The ending is quite good, which is where other Archer novels have lost me. Plus, there are, of course, pages and pages of wonderfully disgusting, pitiless people with racial tension and injustice sewn in. Worth the read for the appalling morgue honeymoon, a graphic murder, and the pathetic candor of the last few pages.
doug bowman
May 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A labyrinth of a tale, where you can never quite get a handle on who's part of the solution or another piece of the puzzle. MacDonald characters have more facets to their personalities, never falling into the cliched characterizations found in lesser writers in the genre
Dec 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
One of the best hardboiled crime novels I've ever read. "Her cut throat gaped like the mouth of an unspeakable grief.” Wow.
Перфектния автор за любители на олд-скуул детективска проза.


Реймънд Чандлър е великан на тежкарския детектив с милиони нюанси. Поколението след него има двама великана които разделят това наследство на две--Мики Спилейн взима тежкарството и го удвоява, а Рос Макдоналд взима нюансите и ги удвоява.

В литературния съспенс световният майстор на нюансите е Греъм Грийн. В шпионската литература--Джон Льо Каре. В хорър литературата--Питър Строб (общо-взето само сле
May 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you've read all your Hammett and Chandler then Ross MacDonald is the man for you. Lew Archer is a private eye in the Sam Spade mode who takes no prisoners in solving a case involving the death of an African American nurse in post-war America. With her boyfriend in the clink and an easy conviction the order of the day for the detective in charge, Archer will need all his wits, strength and bravery to find out who is really behind the murder of Lucy Champion.

This book features your typical stoc
Jack Saltzberg
Feb 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As in most of Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer novels, the sins of the past come to a horrible result. Macdonald is one of the big 3 of California mystery writers (Hammet and Chandler being the others) and the best at using the mystery novel as a framework for a novel that is more about the people involved, and what motivates their behavior. This is one of his earlier Archer books, written in a time where detectives did not have a nemesis who carries over from book to book. All of these are stand alo ...more
Oct 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hard-boiled, mystery
Lew Archer is on another case that explores the depths of human tragedy.. This was the first book in the series where I was able to figure most of the mystery out before the end, but it was still a great ride. It was also the first entry with multi-dimensional African-American characters in a welcome break from most old hardboiled noir fiction. Ross Macdonald / Kenneth Millar ladles on the OTT similes and the murders get more macabre. I hear this series really nails it by the time it gets to "Th ...more
Jul 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Oh, I really liked that one. 4.5 stars? There's bits I didn't like in there, but it tally got me. I'm on a high right now, just after finishing it. :)

I wasn't sure if i was gonna like how it came together -- basically always true. :) I was really pleased at how he dealt with some of the things he had set up.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Dain Curse
  • Nightfall
  • Playback (Philip Marlowe, #7)
  • The Kill-Off
  • Might as Well Be Dead (Nero Wolfe, #27)
  • The Long-Legged Fly (Lew Griffin, #1)
  • Solomon's Vineyard
  • Three by Cain: Serenade/Love's Lovely Counterfeit/The Butterfly
  • Ride the Pink Horse
  • The Wrong Case
  • Vengeance Is Mine  (Mike Hammer, #3)
  • The Big Clock
  • The Real Cool Killers (Harlem Cycle, #2)
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
  • Find a Victim
  • The Barbarous Coast
  • The Doomsters
  • The Galton Case
  • The Wycherly Woman
  • The Zebra-Striped Hearse

Mystery & Thrillers Deals

  • The Last Passenger
    $3.99 $0.99
  • The Thief
    $9.99 $2.99
  • From the Cradle
    $5.99 $1.99
  • Intrusion
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Obsidian Curse (A Stacy Justice Mystery #5)
    $5.99 $1.99
  • Two to Die For (Lucy Kincaid, #12.5; Max Revere, #3.5)
    $4.99 $1.99
  • To the Grave (Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mystery Book #2)
    $4.49 $1.99
  • If Tomorrow Comes
    $12.74 $1.99
  • Bloodstone (A Stacy Justice Mystery, #2)
    $5.99 $1.99
  • The Clockwork Scarab (Stoker & Holmes, #1)
    $7.99 $0.99
  • Into the Darkest Corner
    $7.74 $1.99
  • Dragon's Triangle (The Shipwreck Adventures #2)
    $5.49 $1.99
  • The End of Temperance Dare
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Skewed
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Unintended Consequences (Innocent Prisoners Project #1)
    $5.99 $1.99
  • Steeplejack (Steeplejack #1)
    $8.51 $2.99
  • Girl Number One
    $3.99 $1.99
  • No Time To Blink
    $3.99 $1.99
  • What You Wish For
    $4.99 $1.99
  • The Detachment (John Rain, #7)
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Don't Get Caught
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Disappearance at Devil's Rock
    $9.74 $1.99
  • The Boy Who Stole from the Dead (Nadia Tesla, #2)
    $4.99 $0.99
  • Kindred (Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mystery, #5)
    $5.99 $1.99
  • Local Girl Missing
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Finding Jake
    $9.49 $1.99
  • Violent Crimes (Amanda Jaffe, #5)
    $6.99 $1.99
  • The Temporary Agent (The Agent #1)
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Punishment (Detective Barnes, #1)
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Terminal Rage
    $9.99 $3.99
  • A Lonely Resurrection (John Rain #2)
    $7.99 $1.99
  • The Killer Ascendant (John Rain #6)
    $7.99 $1.99
  • A Deadly Game: The Untold Story of the Scott Peterson Investigation
    $14.99 $1.99
  • Sunday Silence (Frieda Klein, #7)
    $10.99 $1.99
  • The Last Queen of England (Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mystery Book #3)
    $5.99 $1.99
  • Graveyard of Memories (John Rain, #8)
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Emerald Isle (A Stacy Justice Mystery #4)
    $5.99 $1.99
  • Before You Leap
    $4.99 $1.99
  • First Strike (Dewey Andreas, #6)
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Hangman (The Forgotten Files #3)
    $4.99 $1.99
  • An Invisible Client
    $5.49 $1.99
  • The Eight
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Best of Robert E. Howard: Crimson Shadows (Volume 1)
    $13.99 $2.99
  • Sin and Swoon (Blood and Bone, #2)
    $3.99 $0.99
  • The Devil in Silver
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Shark (Forgotten Files, #1)
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Stay Dead (Elise Sandburg #2)
    $5.99 $1.99
  • The Company of Demons
    $7.99 $0.99
  • The Fifth Letter
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Sacred and Profane (Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus, #2)
    $6.99 $1.99
  • The Altar Girl (Nadia Tesla #0.5)
    $3.99 $0.99
  • Darkness
    $6.99 $1.99
  • Redemption Games (John Rain #4)
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Tips for Living
    $4.99 $1.99
  • The Boy from Reactor 4 (Nadia Tesla, #1)
    $3.99 $0.99
  • Carthage
    $8.49 $2.99
  • The Lost Empress (Genealogical Crime Mystery, #4)
    $5.99 $1.99
  • Hounded (An Andy Carpenter Novel)
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Girls on Fire
    $8.99 $1.99
  • The Back Road
    $5.99 $1.99
  • The Other Widow
    $9.24 $1.99
  • Suckers (Jack Daniels and Associates)
    $3.99 $0.99
  • No Time for Goodbye
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Edinburgh Twilight (Ian Hamilton Mysteries #1)
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Extremis (John Rain, #5)
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Blood and Bone (Blood and Bone, #1)
    $3.99 $0.99
  • Chopping Spree (A Goldy Bear Culinary Mystery, #11)
    $7.99 $1.99