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Publisher's Summary

When Lew Archer is hired to get the goods on the suspiciously suave Frenchman who's run off with his client's girlfriend, it looks like a simple case of alienated affections. Things look different when the mysterious foreigner turns out to be connected to a seven-year-old suicide and a mountain of gambling debts.

Black Money is Ross Macdonald at his finest, baring the skull beneath the suntanned skin of Southern California's high society.

More mayhem? Try our other Lew Archer mysteries.
©1993 Margaret Millar (P)2009 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"The finest series of detective novels ever written by an American." ( The New York Times)
"A beautiful job...rich in plot and character....The denouement is both surprising and shocking and the whole is up to Mr. Macdonald's extraordinarily high standards." ( New York Times Book Review)

What listeners say about Black Money

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Good book, great reader

Ross Macdonald is a personal favourite of mine and I am happy his novels are available as audiobooks. Black Money is not one of the greatest Lew Archer novels but it is interesting enough, especially when you are interested in private-eye tales of the Golden Era. Grover Gardner is a perfect reader for this genre, hearing his voice, Lew Archer comes to live right before your eyes. And since these books are full of dialogue, Gardner masters all characters and accents, social classes and etnic accents. I was very pleased with this book and only hope Audible gives access to more of the Ross Macdonald/Lew Archer novels; There are sixteen but only eight are available for members from Europe. A shame!

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Interesting character and relationship study

Content warnings for overt racism, ableism, fat shaming, & oddly intermittent sexism & anti-immigration. Multiple gun shot injuries & deaths, suicide, abuse, alcoholism, assorted vice - it is a noir crime novel.

I almost didn’t get through the first chapter. I’m kind of glad I read it though. The original sin of this novel that prevents me from rating it higher is this: a pasty white failson hires a PI to check out his ex-fiancé’s new beau. Not because he’s treating her roughly, which is is. Not because he’s planning on taking her out of the country - although that impacts the pacing. Failson hires a PI because the new beau is a dark skinned (foreign) man acting like has has a right to be rich, while surrounded by formerly wealthy folks pretending they’re still rich, which is not a reason to hire a PI. Couple that with the sexism of assuming the ex-fiancé, who entered college at 16, was somehow too dumb to make her own choices at 24, so the jealous guy who failed out of the only college he could get into and was too lazy to look past his neighbor for a date thinks it’s his right to make her listen to “reason”. And the PI & the first few interviewees all agreed that an uppity dark skinned man was worthy of a case. And for the reason of educating a woman who couldn’t possibly know better. For this, minus 2 stars.

What’s odd is that a number of women of varying ages and status are treated with respect, deference & assumed competence, while others are assumed to be flighty dingbats. There’s a bit too much judgement of women who are in it for the paycheck - whether that paycheck is money or marriage, but hey, 1965 had fewer choices for women, especially those without money, and that shows up all over this book. The fascinating part is that an author who thinks racism is a great motive, & women are conniving, manages to describe multiple relationships with some nuance and complexity.

It’s kind of worth reading for the descriptions of the wide variety of marriages and partnerships - transactional to true love, desperate, despairing, fun, frivolous, antagonistic. Not a single relationship is like another. Some of the people might seem simple but they’re given complexity and a lot of that is as their part in a couple.

I found Black Money (grr) a lot more interesting and vastly less annoying than The Maltese Falcon. The PI here is a better human for one. “I’m not a do gooder, I just try to do less badder.” He wields an authority (such as calling in an off duty employee before promise of payment) that seems a little over the top, but in general takes people as they are, where they’re at, and tries not to push them in a bad direction. He and other characters put a lot of store in mental health conditions in an ableist way, giving some folks more leeway than others, but the PI is the most kind and forgiving of people’s faults. Drunk musings are “irrigated memories” and eating ones emotions are a reason to kindly suggest therapy, not mockery.

There were non-racist reasons for the case to exist. I wish the author (1965) had thought to use them. To be fair, the PI never thought Ginny was incapable, only the guy who hired him did, and “make sure my neighbor isn’t going off with a mobster” might be a reasonable case for someone with disposable income. Also, the case starts as that, “look into this guy” and somehow bodies pile up afterward, which makes the plot & case take on a life of their own.

The case itself is full of tentacles and dead people. I guessed at some of the players involvements, but for wrong reasons. I’m always sad when a lot of people die, which they do here, but the story had solid pacing and escalation and new things uncovered which kept me invested.

Of one can tolerate a motive that shouldn’t be persuasive, the rest of the book is better. It also shows that US politics hasn’t improved society’s take on much race or at all on immigration from 1965 to 2021, which is both tragic and illustrative.

Steam: None. No on page sex. Some thoughts of kissing or more, but no details. Inevitable results of relationships discussed, and there are offers made, with varying levels of sincerity, but the book doesn’t go into bedroom details.

Narration: The narrator is a favorite of mine, which is why I picked the book. He does ok here but it’s not as nuanced or lively as he can do. Solid B+. Sound quality even.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

I’m Working at Not Being a Do-Badder

This exchange, at the end of chapter 29, sums up why I enjoy Ross Macdonald and Lew Archer. He speaks first in this exchange with a woman who has managed to make a lot of bad life decisions. (Fear not, there are no spoilers.)

“…right now, I have another client and two other murders to work on.”
“There’s no money in that, is there?”
“Money isn’t the only thing in life.”
“That’s what I used to think until this. What are you, a do-gooder or something?”
“I wouldn’t say so. I’m working at not being a do-badder.”
She gave me a puzzled look. “I don’t get you, Archer. What’s your angle?”
“I like people and I try to be of some service.”
“And that adds up to a life?”
“It makes life possible anyway. Try it some time.”

After the claustrophobic cynicism of Dashiell Hammett and the ever-more hopeless vision of Raymond Chandler, Ross Macdonald offers everything we love about the hardboiled school without a morally hardboiled outlook – and without sliding the other way, into a completely unbelievable Knight-in-Shining-Armor-ism. As always, Grover Gardner plays Archer (and every other character) to perfection.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Worth it for Grover Gardner

I got this book only because I am a fan of Grover Gardner.
As always, Mr. Gardner turned in an excellent performance.
The story, however, I didn’t enjoy as much.
I felt the plot was forced and the author tried to make it hard-boiled for the sake of being hard-boiled and the characters were stereotypical of hard-boiled detective story fodder.
The book really didn’t give you anyone to like, much less get attached to and give a darn about.
Mr. Gardner saved this with his performance and that is about the nicest thing I can say.

1 person found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Can't Believe I Finishet It

This was one of those stories like watching a TV program and you step away to fix dinner, then come back, then go take a nap, then come back, without pausing the program. You don't miss much, yet something drives you to get to the end. Once you get there you wonder why you wasted your time.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Loved it

Excellent author. Excellent narration. Recommend listening / reading. Good mystery /noir storyline. Recommend purchase. Enjoy

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Fun story, solid read.

The narrator does a great job separating characters with class and subtlety. Great noir feel across the board.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Noir Excellence

Quite simply an excellent book by an excellent author read by the perfect performer.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Love and Money

Another great Archer story with fallen women, sleazy men, and lots of money. Dreams, or fantasies, of money and the good life drive all the parties in this story. One murder leads to many others in the pursuit of love with a dollar sign attached.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Superb.

One of the best novels ever written in any country and in any century. I've read the novel a couple of times before and this is the first time I listen to the audiobook. Excellent performance.