Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Drowning Pool by Ross Macdonald

The Drowning Pool is a hard-boiled murder mystery set in California during the 1940s, but at the opening we think the mystery is one of much less gravity than that. Maude Slocum pays a visit to our smart mouthed private detective Lew Archer because someone has sent her a menacing letter, threatening to expose her affair to her husband. The problem with Mrs. Slocum is that she won't assist the slueth by giving him any helpful information about her life or tips on who she think that it may be. Just the next day, her mother-in-law is found dead, which is when things start to get serious.

While the answer does not expose itself right away to Archer, the characters do. Mr. Slocum, though married, is a homosexual. He doesn't have a job that turns out enough money to support his family even though he's well educated and equipped to do it, so he lives in his mother's house with his family and lives off his mother's money, a monthly 300 dollar allowance. He's an actor at a local theater company, and his affair is with the man who wrote the play he's performing in. His daughter's adoration of him borderlines an Electra complex. His daughter's love interest, Reavis, is a freshly fired driver for the family, a compulsive liar, and has his hands in all kind of trouble. His wife shouldn't be trying to hide the affair from her husband because he already knows about the affair and she's lying to the detective she hired for the job. Everyone has a motive, everyone could have done it, and no one has all the information.

I thought I had the murder figured out three or four different times during the course of the book and never even came close. I wasn't quite satisfied with the ending, but everything that lead up to it was a hell of a ride. There was also a passage that seemed like a dream sequence towards the end that wasn't one. It seemed completely out of place for one thing, and the events that unfurled during all of this seemed improbable to me. Maybe that's a plot problem or maybe that's just a Brooke lacking imagination problem. I don't know.

This was made into a movie where Paul Newman plays Lew Archer.


Carlton said...

For a minute I thought the detective was a married, gay amateur actor, living with his mom. Then I reread that paragraph.

Brooke said...

Maybe I should go back and fix that, then.

Carlton said...

I think you made it clear. I just forgot who was who.