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The Zebra-Striped Hearse Audio, Cassette – Unabridged, January 13, 2001
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From Library Journal
Published in 1949, 1961, and 1962, respectively, these three titles find gumshoe Lew Archer up to his neck in murder, kidnapping, and blackmailAjust another day at the office. This is hard-boiled detective writing at the top of its form.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Inside Flap
Strictly speaking, Lew Archer is only supposed to dig up the dirt on a rich man's suspicious soon-to-be son-in-law. But in no time at all Archer is following a trail of corpses from the citrus belt to Mazatlan. And then there is the zebra-striped hearse and its crew of beautiful, sunburned surfers, whose path seems to keep crossing the son-in-law's--and Archer's--in a powerful, fast-paced novel of murder on the California coast. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
This is my personal, favorite mystery of all time. I have read this book no less than four times throughout my life and it inspired me on the road to mystery writing. Ross Macdonald weaves a complex Freudian twist in The Zebra-Striped Hearse not explored by Chandler and Hammett. It also examines the, then generation gap. Indicative of Ross Macdonald books, the California coast and sea are woven into the story and paint a serene backdrop against the moral turpitude of the plot.
The novel as a whole is moody, its story a dark (and very sad)one of sexual depravity, psychological cruelty, a deliberate red herring or two, and of course, murder(s). To some extent I felt novel had too many characters, and it was hard to keep track of all the motivations, not to mention Archer's frenetic movements between Mexico, California, and Nevada. But with MacDonald you get a master of character creation who possesses excellent descriptive powers. He can create a memorable character, with a history in the space of a paragraph or two. He's amazing. And his scenes can very suggestive, very dark. In one, a little girl looking at a comic book suggests (possible) crimes of a much greater scale. But MacDonald doesn't dwell on it. He leaves you hanging, effectively haunting you for the rest of the book. You never know for sure, but it's that not knowing that shows MacDonald at his best. Within the scope of the novel, it's a small moment, but MacDonald cares about those small moments as he builds a whole.
If there is convolution in Zebra Striped Hearse, it's a small sin blown away by the fine descriptive powers of a master.
I loved the locales of the novel. Although I wish he physically described the areas Archer visits, MacDonald was always more of an ethicist than a sociologist. He was always less interested in communities and the way society worked than in the way that humans worked and how the decisions they make ripple down through the lives of other human beings. Thus he visits Lake Tahoe, but there is a kind of timelessness to the area he described. In reading Chandler, on the other hand, there is often a deep consciousness of the character and nature of the places where the stories occur. These technique benefits both authors, by providing a concreteness to Chandler's stories that is often missing in MacDonald's, while lending a sense of timelessness to MacDonald that is impossible in Chandler. Most hardboiled writers have tended to follow more in Hammett and Chandler's footsteps than MacDonald's, though James Ellroy is one notable exception.
Though this is not one of MacDonald's best novels, it is still exceptionally enjoyable. It is also one of his least typical. Some people survive you anticipate meeting violent ends (the body count for his central characters is usually quite high). As always, he unrolls his plot skillfully. The characters are all vividly drawn. And unlike many of his other novels, there is more than one unexpected twist at the end. This is as fine a place as any for any newcomer to MacDonald to start, and any MacDonald veteran who has not read it certainly should. It may not contain the glories of his great masterpiece THE CHILL (which more than one critic of the genre considers to be the supreme novel of the entire detective genre), but it is nonetheless a very fine book.
Full of interesting complex characters, this book is full of the stuff which excellent detective novels are made of: good, evil, and motives galore.
As with MacDonald's books, it is complicated and moves to and fro to a degree that careful reading is necessary, but definately well worth it. While you're reading, the pace increases, the tension rises, the scenes are wonderfully interesting and the characters are delightfully real. The clues are precisely set out and carefully explained as the novel progresses. An excellent read for detective novel fans!