It is quite some time since I read one of Ross Macdonald's private eye novels featuring Lew Archer, but I was prompted to give him another go by the republication of The Underground Man - and I'm very glad I did. The paperback is one of a number that have now appeared as Penguin Modern Classics. Is it over-stating the case to call Macdonald's books "modern classics"? An interesting subject for debate, but for my own part, I'm pleased to see their quality recognised in this way.
The Underground Man dates back to 1971, but you can't call a modern classic a forgotten book - can you? - which is why this appreciation isn't appearing on a Friday! Archer becomes involved in a case which sees a teenage girl abducting a young boy, but it turns out that the girl is as much a victim as the boy. As usual with Macdonald, the story involves the gradual revelation of long-buried family secrets.
There is a crowded cast of characters - so crowded, in fact, that occasionally I lost track of who was who. With many writers, this would be a major criticism, but somehow I didn't mind. I find Macdonald's writing almost hypnotically readable. He creates a fascinating picture of a sunny yet tainted world and his characters are concisely but compellingly portrayed.
Another strength in this book is that the plot is very neatly constructed. I didn't pick out the culprit, and I found the key elements of the story believable and, as is often the way with Macdonald, rather poignant. I shall soon be having a read of one or two more of the new reissues. Well done to Penguin for reintroducing me to a very enjoyable novelist.