When I began reading Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer novels last year, I built my acquisitions around the three-volume collection published by the Library of America. These bring together many of the Archer novels that Macdonald published over the span of a quarter century, encapsulating nicely the corpus of his work. The collection is far from comprehensive, though, which led me to search out copies of the novels missing from them.
The Ivory Grin was my latest find. It begins when Archer is approached by a woman asking her to locate a nurse hiding in a small California town. This soon results in a series of encounters that hit the marks familiar to readers of Macdonald's novels, with murders, clashes with local law enforcement, and encounters with a cast of sharply-written characters. Yet while an enjoyable read there is a reason why it didn't make the "best of" collection published by the LoA, as the elements of the story don't come together as well as they do his other novels. It just goes to prove that, no matter how good they are or how effective their formula is, not even the best writer can produce a great work every time.