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Lew Archer is a Private Investigator based in Hollywood. In this novel he is hired by a very wealthy young man to stop his ex-girlfriend from marrying another man who he thinks will be bad for her. As Archer unravels the mystery it appears he may be right. The plot is full of red herrings with a new suspect every few chapters and another crime to go with them. There are leads towards organised crime such as the money laundering suggested in the title. There is a suicide that Archer thinks may have been murder and then there are two murders. Archer must determine if these crimes are connected, if there is more than one perpetrator and why they happened. He does this very well and keeps the action and tension going to the last page.
Black Money has all the Ross Macdonald staples: Oedipal angst, trans-temporal evil & socially mobile murder. Yet here these motifs reach their greatest expression. Lew Archer, the detective as shrink, navigates through a psychological underworld as depraved and down-and-out as any asphalt jungle. Macdonald evokes the pathos and alienation of LA loserdom with a master's touch. While the title refers to mob money, the real locus of crime is in academia, a world the author knew well. Here his Freudian fable plays out to its final, chilling conclusion. Ross Macdonald may have come after Hammett and Chandler, but he stands above them as the most poetic and passionate scribe of the mean streets.