As a private detective Lew Archer is used to cases coming to him. But when he encounters a dying man on the side of the highway between Los Angeles and Sacramento, he quickly finds himself enmeshed in the investigation of a hijacked shipment of bourbon, the question of a missing woman, and the hostile relationship between a local businessman and the county sheriff. As corpses start to pile up, Archer must untangle the threads before more people die — with his own body possibly among them.
As the fifth book published in his Lew Archer series, Ross Macdonald's novel offers a nice mix of the fresh and the familiar. By this point he was increasingly focused on the elements that made his books so great, namely the characters revealed by his protagonist's investigations. Yet Macdonald starts the novel in a way unusual with his books, as he drops Archer into the middle of events, giving him a need to find a justification to stay with the case and see it through. The amount of effort this entails for his central character provided for a nice change of pace from his other works, and shows how willing Macdonald was to tweak with his formula to produce yet another engrossing tale of temptation and murder in postwar America