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The Three Roads (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard) Paperback – January 11, 2011
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Ross Macdonald’s real name was Kenneth Millar. Born near San Francisco in 1915 and raised in Ontario, 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 Gold Dagger Award. He died in 1983.
About the Author
“[The] American private eye, immortalized by Hammett, refined by Chandler, brought to its zentih by Macdonald.” —New York Times Book Review
“Macdonald should not be limited in audience to connoisseurs of mystery fiction. He is one of a handful of writers in the genre whose worth and quality surpass the limitations of the form.” —Los Angeles Times
“Most mystery writers merely write about crime. Ross Macdonald writes about sin.” —The Atlantic
“Without in the least abating my admiration for Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, I should like to venture the heretical suggestion that Ross Macdonald is a better novelist than either of them.” —Anthony Boucher
“[Macdonald] carried form and style about as far as they would go, writing classic family tragedies in the guise of private detective mysteries.” —The Guardian (London)
“[Ross Macdonald] gives to the detective story that accent of class that the late Raymond Chandler did.” —Chicago Tribune
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But now, i have.
I would say “Classic” Macdonald except that the subject matter is not quite what one would expect in a mystery novel. Psychoanalysis and arguments for and against its various schools of thought. I am somewhat versed in the matter and still found its detail a bit obstructionist to the reading. But, I did enjoy reading a Ross Macdonald I had not previously even heard of.
Maybe, I can find more.
The plot revolves around Paula West, a strong willed and successful Hollywood screenwriter and the man she loves; Lt. Bret Taylor, a naval officer who suffers from amnesia. The story is told as a third person narration and takes place a few months after the end of WWII.
The first half of The Three Roads is strongly written and stands on its own as compelling reading. This part of the novel is noteworthy for its clever dialogue, its detailed development of the two principal characters and its very smooth narrative flow. The second half is less compelling in that it gets bogged down by both overwrought psychoanalytic theories and some plot elements that are rather implausible, to say the least.
Lt. Taylor is a very troubled man and his problems can be traced back to losing his mother when he was only four. Those familiar with Ross Macdonald's biography know that he himself was four when his parent's separated. That event had a terrible impact on Macdonald and is something he never really got over. Virtually all of his fiction, to one degree or another, centers around the profound and long term consequences of family dysfunction.
The Three Roads is a well written, though flawed, mystery in its own right. It also serves to illustrate how Ross Macdonald's lifelong effort to exorcise his own demons manifested itself early on.