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The Way Some People Die (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard) Paperback – July 10, 2007

4.4 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews
Book 3 of 18 in the Lew Archer Novels Series

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“The best novel in the tough tradition I've read since Farewell, My Lovely and possibly since The Maltese Falcon.”—Anthony Boucher, The New York Times Book Review“The greatest American mystery novelist. Macdonald imbued the mystery with the qualities of a full-bodied novel: impeccable plotting, a sense of place, a careful delineation of human psychology, and a perfect fusion of story and character.”—Richard North Patterson“Ross Macdonald gives to the detective story that accent of class that Raymond Chandler did.”—The Chicago Tribune

About the Author

Ross Macdonald's real name was Kenneth Millar. Born near San Francisco in 1915 and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, Millar returned to the U.S. as a young man and published his first novel in 1944. He served as the president of the Mystery Writers of America and was awarded their Grand Master Award as well as the Mystery Writers of Great Britain's Silver Dagger Award. He died in 1983.
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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard; Reprint edition (July 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307278980
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307278982
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #452,494 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Michael G. VINE VOICE on December 26, 2005
Format: Paperback
This early Lew Archer novel starts off in straightforward fashion. Mrs. Samuel Lawrence of Santa Monica, a poor but proud widow, hires Archer to find her missing daughter, a young nurse named Galley. Archer goes where the clues lead and soon finds he is involved in something more than a simple missing persons case. Slowly but surely, the hardboiled PI becomes immersed in the sordid world of heroin addicts and dealers.

The Way Some People Die contains plenty of good dialogue as well as numerous descriptive passages notable for their insightful detail. The intricately constructed narrative contains several intriguing plot elements that are ultimately tied together in the final pages. A 4 star effort, not quite up to the standard of Macdonald's best work, but nevertheless a worthwhile read for hardboiled crime fans.
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Format: Paperback
A master of the noir thriller, Macdonald captures the heart and soul of 1940-50s California, from Los Angeles to Palm Springs to San Francisco, his protagonist at home prowling the mean streets of LA. A former cop, Lew Archer, now a PI, is called to the Santa Monica home of a distraught mother, Mrs. Samuel Lawrence. Her daughter has been missing since Christmas and now, months later, Mrs. Lawrence is willing to invest in outside help to locate Galatea. Galley is one of those few remarkable women that draw men in like a black widow spider, all innocence and fresh beauty, virtually irresistible to the male of the species. Galley quit her nursing job after caring for a gut-shot petty hood, apparently running off with a small time gangster in his employ, Joe Tarantine. Archer resorts to the tried and true techniques that served him well on the police force, gathering bits of evidence until he can form a cohesive picture of the girl's activities and her possible whereabouts, not to mention the men in her life

The most likely place to start is with Tarantine's brother, Mario, but he is laid up in the hospital after a terrible beating that leaves him almost unrecognizable. Still Mario is the closest lead to his brother, although Archer gets sidetracked by a local drug dealer with influence enough to corrupt some local law enforcement. Surrounded by a grotesque band of thugs, Dowser, a former boxer, has Lew escorted to his fortified hilltop home between Santa Monica and Pacific Palisades. His intention is to enlist Archer's aid in locating Joe Tarantine, since they are both interested in finding the same man, offering a decent reward; the PI plays along since that is likely the only way he will leave the enclave in one piece.
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Format: Paperback
P.I. work can be challenging, but Lew Archer wasn't prepared.

It all started out so simple, an over-protective mother, looking for her adult missing daughter. She hadn't heard from her for a few months and was truly distraught. It was obvious by her humble surroundings that she had little money, but Archer didn't want to work for free. He was reluctant to get involved, but Mrs. Lawrence was adamant and showed him a picture. Galley was her name and she was definitely a looker. He agreed to do a little poking around if Mrs. Lawrence would pay him fifty dollars. But he was sure it would be a dead end.

That was a bad call...

Galley had left little behind to trace, but it was enough to get Archer started. It appeared she had unknowingly become involved with some unsavory characters. It was quite possible she was in definite danger. The more Archer dug, the deeper he was pulled in. Cross-country searches, illegal activities, and drugs weave a tangled web of deception-but that is just the beginning. Just when he gets close to Joe Tarantine, a major link to Galley, he often slips away.

When Galley finally surfaces, Archer is determined to set her free. The stakes are high and the risks are chancy at best, but that's just part of the job. When things really get hot, the police are involved. But will they trust his instincts or write Archer off?

Witnesses and sources turn against each other and Archer is stuck in the middle. Some times he's just ahead of the police but the next time he's to late. Sorting out the truth in between the lines is a challenge, will Archer's persistence pay off in the end or will the real truth slip away?

This is one of 18 Lew Archer novels published between 1949 and 1976.
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Format: Paperback
Being a big fan of Ross MacDonald, I know that his early books (pre-1958) are solid but rather standard hard-boiled mysteries very much in the Hammett/Chandler school. MacDonald didn't really find his voice (and his power as a writer) until his amazing streak of successes that started with 1959's The Galton Case, and beyond.

Having known that when I started The Way Some People Die (written 1951), I was still surprised to find it pedestrian and somewhat less than gripping. The plot is appropriately complex, but of all MacDonald's books this definitely comes across as undistinguished and derivative of Chandler in particular. The comings and goings of several characters (especially the daughter who Archer is hired to find at the beginning) make little sense, and the environment of gangsters, thugs and hired goons is not what MacDonald does best, and they're the kind of Hollywood stock characters that make this book feel tired and dated in a way that no other MacDonald books are.
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