Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index




to e-mail us:

support the site

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK

In association with Amazon.ca - Canada

the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Galton Case

Ross Macdonald

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase The Galton Case

Title: The Galton Case
Author: Ross Macdonald
Genre: Novel
Written: 1959
Length: 242 pages
Availability: The Galton Case - US
in: Four Novels of the 1950s - US
The Galton Case - UK
The Galton Case - Canada
L'Affaire Galton - France
Der Fall Galton - Deutschland
A un passo dalla sedia - Italia
El caso Galton - España
from: Bookshop.org (US)
  • •A Lew Archer novel

- Return to top of the page -

Our Assessment:

B+ : solid P.I. novel, nicely turned

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The NY Times Book Rev. A 29/3/1959 Anthony Boucher
Sunday Times A 24/1/1960 Julian Symons
The Times . 13/5/2021 Dominic Maxwell

  From the Reviews:
  • "Some of Archer's other cases (notably last year's The Doomsters) have seemed to me to impinge more directly on "the basic hopes and dreads" but this is still cumulatively exciting, beautifully plotted and written with taste, perception and compassion." - Anthony Boucher, The New York Times Book Review

  • "The Galton Case finds him in quite incandescently good form. (...) The final solution, ingenious though it is, carries for me just one trick too many, but for most of the way this is a puzzle of classical simplicity and elegance. I don't see how any crime addict can fail to enjoy it." - Julian Symons, Sunday Times

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

- Return to top of the page -

The complete review's Review:

       The Galton Case begins with private eye Lew Archer summoned by attorney Gordon Sable, who wants to hire him on behalf of one of his clients. Sable isn't in his offices when Archer shows up for the appointment, asking that Archer come to his home -- which gives the investigator an opportunity to encounter Sable's troubled (and much younger) wife, as well as houseman Peter Culligan (who seems particularly ill-suited for such a position). What Sable wants Archer to look into is a missing person: Anthony Galton, the only child from a very wealthy family, who disappeared some twenty years earlier, in 1936, at the age of twenty-two. His mother is now seriously ill and wants to find him before she dies, hoping that she and her son can be reconciled after all this time.
       Archer has barely started in on the case when there's an incident at Sable's house, Peter getting stabbed at the door. When Archer comes over to help, he's car-jacked by the apparent perpetrator. Archer looks into this case as well -- but initially makes quicker headway on the Galton case. Traces, from back in the day, aren't that hard to find -- not least a pile of bones they've dug up, which, it becomes clear, must be the remains of the missing man. But there's more to the case: Archer already knew that young Galton was married, and he finds out that Galton had a son. And now there's this boy who is the right age, calling himself John Brown -- the name Galton had lived under --, who is looking for his father .....
       It all fits together neatly and easily. Sable observes: "You work very quickly", but Archer admits: "I was lucky" -- suspiciously lucky, he realizes:

     They fell into my lap. It's one of the things that made me suspicious. Too many coincidences come -together -- the Culligan murder, the Brown-Galton murder, the Brown-Galton boy turning up, if that's who he is. I can't help feeling that the whole business may have been planned to come out this way.
       That's the point he's reached roughly midway through the novel -- still leaving quite a while for him to stumble (and travel, extensively) around until he's managed to put all the pieces into proper place.
       Old Mrs.Galton is satisfied with the (preliminary) outcome, convinced the boy who had been calling himself John Brown is indeed her grandson and happy to take him in. The boy, unsurprisingly, embraces and adjusts readily enough to his new-found standard of living (though, as Archer mutters to himself in the background: "money was never free. Like any other commodity, it had to be paid for").
       The boy's story is plausible enough -- but quite a few of the details prove hard to check. Archer can't shake the sneaking suspicion that the boy is an impostor. Not least among the small, possible clues there are some indications that the boy is .... from Canada ! (an amusing nod to writing-under-a-pseudonym Macdonald's own Canadian background).
       As Archer tells Sable, while he's still sniffing around:
I can't prove it, but I can feel it. The Galton boy is a phony, part of a big conspiracy, with the Organization behind it.
       That's what a lot of the evidence -- and the beating Archer takes -- would seem to suggest, but it turns out not to be entirely that straightforward. Macdonald offers a few nice twists along the way -- not least in the resolution of Peter's murder -- and, while there are maybe too many coïncidences (not least among the connections between the cast of characters) and a final reveal that's arguably too clever by half, it does make for a satisfying thriller.
       A cut above the usual P.I. novel, one can easily understand why The Galton Case is considered the Archer novel where Macdonald really begins to find his groove. There is a lot stuffed in here -- overlaps across more than twenty years -- but Macdonald works it all out pretty neatly.

- M.A.Orthofer, 3 August 2022

- Return to top of the page -


The Galton Case: Reviews: Ross Macdonald: Other books by Ross Macdonald under review: Other books of interest under review:

- Return to top of the page -

About the Author:

       Canadian-American author Ross Macdonald (actually: Kenneth Millar) lived 1915 to 1983.

- Return to top of the page -

© 2022 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links