I enjoyed 'The Underground Man' so much that I couldn't help but order the rest of the new Penguin Ross MacDonald's the moment I'd finished it. When I finish those there are plenty more, but published by a couple of different people which is vaguely annoying - a run of matching spines would be far more satisfying. Anyway that's hardly the biggest problem in my life and MacDonald is so good I won't be able to resist those books in whatever shape or state they come in.
'The Galton Case' has everything a good noir thriller needs - a brace of blondes, a hard boiled detective, a couple of bodies, a dodgy lawyer, a rich old lady, and more than a few twists along the way - but that's not nearly all. The premise of 'The Galton Case' is that the rich old lady has decided she wants her missing son back. Anthony Galton disappeared along with his pregnant wife some twenty years previously after his parents disinherited him. The widow Galton is now dying herself and hope it isn't to late for a reconciliation and though everyone else thinks Anthony is most likely dead Lew Archer is put on the case to humour her.
Lew himself is sure that Galton is dead but follows the leads anyway and sure enough a body soon turns up, unfortunately it's just the body - no head, and that makes it hard to identify after twenty years, added to that there's no sign of the mother and child - or is there. A boy who might be Galton's son also turns up but there's something about his story that doesn't quite sit right with Lew and when there's such a lot of money at stake no con would be too elaborate.
So far so good, but there are plenty of authors who could make something good from this particular mix. MacDonald's trick is to make me believe in why his characters behave the way they do; a little bit of psychology goes a long way, that and snappy dialogue. There are plenty of authors who can turn out a decent one liner too, but again MacDonald makes it feel natural - quite dry, somewhat cynical, and often somehow good natured. My only regret with this book was not chasing up a reference to Greek mythology - apparently a lot of MacDonald's plots were based on myths and knowing which one might have added another layer of meaning here, but that's not a huge problem either, it's just something to pay attention to next time I read it.