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The Chill Paperback – June 3, 1996


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reissue edition (June 3, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679768076
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679768074
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #163,788 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"The surprise with which a detective novel concludes should set up tragic vibrations which run backward through the entire structure," wrote Ross Macdonald in his 1981 Self-Portrait. Nowhere in his work does he better demonstrate this principle than in The Chill, first published in 1964. The plot is one of Macdonald's most masterfully constructed. Private detective Lew Archer is engaged to trace a missing spouse, who has vanished--apparently of her own free will--only a day into her honeymoon. Archer begins pulling at the threads of the case, and by page 25 they're already starting to reveal a deeper, darker story involving two murders 20 years apart. As usual, Macdonald's economical prose propels the reader forward from one action-packed scene to another, while the scenes in turn pile up to paint a rich, complex picture of buried memories, anguished relations between parents and children, the arrogance of the rich, and the search for identity. Then, at the end, one of the author's best surprise reversals changes the picture's colors entirely. Even if you're one of those discerning readers who find Macdonald's lesser work superior to most other mystery writing (as does this reviewer), The Chill stands out among his books. --Nicholas H. Allison

From Library Journal

Published in 1965, 1963, and 1950, respectively, this trio feature Macdonald's hard-boiled private detective Lew Archer. The plots involve murder, deceit, blackmail, sex, and all those other goodies that make for great crime stories.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

It seems to me however, that a lot of what gets wrapped up in the end here is ludicrous.
clifford
It crackles along with a vibrant electricity through an engaging and suspenseful mystery plot.
D. R. Thayer
This was the finest novel Ross MacDonald penned and that means it's the best of the best.
George Duncan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

66 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Robert Moore HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 12, 1998
Format: Paperback
MacDonald is rightfully considered one of the three great hardboiled detective novelists (along with Hammett and Chandler). Rereading this novel confirmed what I thought the first time I read it: this is the best detective novel that I have ever read.
It is also the most appropriately titled novel that I have ever encountered. The first time I read this I was lying in the sun beside the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. When I reached the moment when the mystery was solved, a chill literally ran up my spine. One of the truly creepy moments of my life. Hyperbole rules among reviewers here, but this one would get a higher rating if I were allowed.
I have read most of MacDonald novels, despite the fact that I really don't spend much time reading mystery or detective fiction. His earliest books are good, but not great. But about four or five novels into the Lew Archer series MacDonald (in real life Professor Kenneth Millar, and husband of fellow mystery writer Margaret Millar)found his voice and his theme. In all his best books the theme is: the sins of the father shall be visited upon the second and third generations (I didn't check my OT for a more precise quotation). A typical plot from his best novels is as follows: Archer is asked to look into this or that problem (a person has disappeared, has left, is being plagued by someone, etc., etc.). Gradually upon conducting his investigation his role shifts from detective to archaeologist, until he eventually discovers the troubles that he has been asked to look into have causes reaching back ten, twenty, or even fifty years. The seed planted by an act decades earlier has sprouted in the present, destroying those who are otherwise innocent.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By R. W. Rasband VINE VOICE on January 4, 2005
Format: Paperback
"The Chill" was recommended to me as Ross MacDonald's darkest book, and after finishing it one can confidently say it's hard to imagine a story with a bleaker conclusion. The author springs a gothic surprise ending that owes as much to late Alfred Hitchcock as Raymond Chandler. It's still stunning, but it must have really been a shocker back in 1963 when the novel was first published. Once again detective Lew Archer delves into a case that involves public corruption and private family dysfunction by the wealthy. It was Faulkner who said "The past isn't dead. It isn't even past." I suppose that is the motto of most noir, and especially this one. You should read this immediately.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By D. R. Thayer on December 20, 2008
Format: Paperback
The beauty and insight of MacDonald's work made me look him up. I wanted to know more about this amazing writer that I had never heard of before. Turns out that MacDonald served as a naval officer, then got a Ph.D. in Literature. He writes with the discipline of the naval officer, and with the depth of understanding of human nature of an academic.

I found more insight in one paragraph of this novel than I did in the last ten books I read. Line after line he tosses out these stunningly clear observations, each of them a gem. He does it casually, manfully; I've never read anything like it. At one point he described a woman in one sentence, she was just a wallpaper character, there to decorate the 'nursing home' where a badly traumatized character was placed. This woman was not even part of the plot, but I knew her instantly, and from her, the room, the building and the city where they all reside. I wish I could quote it, but it went something like, "She looked at me from under her hooded eyes and then turned away, her dark wavy hair cascading like sorrows down her back." He weaves the details about the real characters even more richly.

Published in 1964, MacDonald employs an unusual early 20th century American English that is at once crisp and casual. His words carry the same simple beauty as a very good men's suit of that time; such straight, almost chiseled lines and understated colors that you almost don't notice the opulence of the fabric from which it is cut, until you touch it (or in this case, it touches you). That's when you know you've just encountered something extraordinary.

MacDonald is far too masculine a writer to appreciate his work being called poetry, but in fact his work is better poetry than I've read in many an anthology.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By nobizinfla on March 15, 2003
Format: Paperback
Along with Hammett, Cain and Chandler, Ross Macdonald is a pioneer of the literate mystery novel.
In "The Chill" (written in 1963), Lew Archer has a missing persons case that leads to three murders committed over a twenty year period that he must tie together.
There is plenty of action, twists, reversals and suspense throughout...adultery, cons, frame-ups, blackmail.
The plot is complicated and complex; filled with plentiful characters (many with aliases). You have to pay attention and keep score.
The ending is a major surprise.
It is easy to see why it is among the IMBA's "100 Favorite Mysteries of the Century."
Well worth a second read.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Chuck Thegze on December 7, 2001
Format: Paperback
For those of us who keep going back again and again to read
the novels of Ross Macdonald, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell
Hammett, Ernest Hemingway and Peter Matthiessen, this is
without question one of the greatest works of that group.

Once Ross Macdonald (Ken Millar) broke through with the Galton Case,
every novel from then on formed one of the great canons of
American literature. The N.Y. Times Book Review had
The Underground Man as its front page review in 1970.
Well-deserved recongnition for a writer at his zenith.
What Conan Doyle was to London in its era, so is Ross Macdonald to
California in its era. A great writer on the edge of a culture.
The Chill stands with the Zebra-Striped Hearse and The
Underground Man alongside The Long Goodbye and The Big
Sleep as American writing at its very best.
To be an American (and a Californian) is to read these
books.
So subtle, so psychological, so empathetic, so hard.
Modern noir --- the epitome of great craftsmanship.
At the top of 5 stars. The very top. One of the proud
novels on the Knopf list.
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