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The Blue Hammer (1976)

de Ross Macdonald

Sèrie: Lew Archer (18)

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5851330,682 (3.71)22
The desert air is hot with sex and betrayal, death and madness and only Archer can make sense of a killer who makes murder a work of art. Finding a purloined portrait of a leggy blonde was supposed to be an easy paycheck for Detective Lew Archer, but that was before the bodies began piling up. Suddenly, Archer find himself smack in the middle of a decades-long mystery of a brilliant artist who walked into the desert and simply disappeared. He left behind a bevy of muses, molls, dolls, and dames -- each one scrambling for what they thought was rightfully theirs.… (més)
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» Mira també 22 mencions

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How should one read an author's series? This is a question for which the answer would seem obvious: from beginning to end. Yet while this is certainly true for many series nowadays which are basically one story stretched over multiple volumes (e.g. Harry Potter), there are plenty in which authors use the same characters in a variety of separate tales. Must, for example, Arthur Conan-Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories be read in the order they were written, or can they be read and enjoyed in whatever order the reader encounters them?

To be honest, this is a question I hadn't considered until I finished Ross Macdonald's book. While the final novel in his Lew Archer series, it's only the second one that I haven't read. This didn't inhibit my enjoyment of his story in the least, but when I finished it I wondered if I had read enough of them to form an accurate assessment of its merits. Part of it is that its plot was similar in many ways to that of the first Lew Archer novel I read, The Goodbye Look, with an investigation into the theft of a personal item leading to an unraveling of a family's secrets dating back decades. Fortunately Macdonald was too good of a novelist to simply rehash his earlier book, as events go off in a very different direction and end up in a different place as a result. But was this the premise for all of his novels or just a coincidence that the first two I read just happened to contain a similar premise? It may be a trivial point, but it's one that I need to resolve whether Macdonald was revisiting one of his many premises or whether it was a tired regurgitation by a one-trick pony. I'd like to think that it was the former, and I enjoyed this book even in spite of the repetition of the premise, but I feel that I can't make a final judgment until I have the opportunity to read more of Macdonald's work. ( )
  MacDad | Mar 27, 2020 |
To have been written when Macdonald was in the early stages of Alzheimer's, The Blue Hammer is a damned impressive book. Occasionally there's a faint but chilling indication that he knew something was wrong ("Mackendrick got the message by degrees, like a man becoming aware that he has an illness"), and it must have required tremendous bravery and dedication for him to complete the novel. I've read nearly all of Macdonald, and anyone who has enjoyed his other work will like this one, too; it's a dark, convoluted mystery with enough murder, alcoholism and sordid family secrets to fill three books by any other writer. It also happens to be the last of its kind: not just Ross Macdonald's last novel, but the final dispatch from the golden age of hardboiled crime fiction, which had begun inauspiciously in the pages of pulp magazines and was honed into literary art by Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Macdonald in the ensuing five decades. ( )
3 vota Jonathan_M | Nov 21, 2017 |
Lew Archer is hired to retrieve a stolen painting. Soon two men are killed and although the police do not feel there is a connection to the theft, Lew senses things are looking that way. He is hired to track down the daughter of the owners of the painting and goes to Arizona to the town where many of the people involved came from. There he hears of another killing that wasn't solved and the painter of the missing painting fled town at the time. There is also the beautiful model who the artist depicted in the painting. Where is she now and where is the artist now and is he alive after 25 years.

Meanwhile back in California Lew is falling for a young female reporter as well as trying to help a young man who lives in a crumbling house with his dysfunctional family plus find the painting.

The novel is full of twists and turns and requires a long explanation by Lew at the end to bring all the odds and ends together. Fun to read. ( )
2 vota lamour | Mar 28, 2017 |
Though published in 1976, this doesn't feel like the type of crime/PI novel of the seventies. It's not remotely hard-boiled, for a start, though it's certainly noirish. If anything, MacDonald's Lew Archer novels are downright soft-boiled, there's always a terrible sadness at their core, and Archer is not immune to that sadness, in fact he seems drawn to it and braced for the inevitable pain he's determined to uncover.

In The Blue Hammer, Archer is asked to recover a stolen painting. Almost at once it becomes apparent that this isn't about an art heist but about deep dark family secrets, and Archer follows the clues and the threads, with a murder or two along the way, until the whole thing finally unravels.

This isn't exactly action-packed. Archer moves like a secular priests from person to person, extracting their confessions and putting the outlines of the larger story together from the details. There's lots of driving from one place to another, walks on beaches, long conversations and short ones. The urgency mounts when someone goes missing, though, and outcome depends on Archer working out who the hell is who. ( )
1 vota Nigel_Quinlan | Oct 21, 2015 |
Another wonderful time spent with Ross MacDonald. As with all of his books, "The Blue Hammer" remains contemporary because the plot deals with family and the connected crimes that befall. MacDonald's steadfast detective, Lew Archer, has been hired to find a stolen painting, which will lead to trying to find the missing artist, a missing woman, and a killer. ( )
1 vota phillipfrey | Sep 13, 2014 |
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Betty yawned and went to sleep again. I lay awake and watched her face emerging in the slow dawn. After a while I could see the steady blue pulse in her temple, the beating of the silent hammer which meant that she was alive. I hoped that the blue hammer would never stop.
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The desert air is hot with sex and betrayal, death and madness and only Archer can make sense of a killer who makes murder a work of art. Finding a purloined portrait of a leggy blonde was supposed to be an easy paycheck for Detective Lew Archer, but that was before the bodies began piling up. Suddenly, Archer find himself smack in the middle of a decades-long mystery of a brilliant artist who walked into the desert and simply disappeared. He left behind a bevy of muses, molls, dolls, and dames -- each one scrambling for what they thought was rightfully theirs.

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