Sunday, 21 November 2010

The Doomsters - Ross Macdonald

I had intended to add this to the ‘other books read this year list’, but The Doomsters deserves a special mention. The framework of the book is fairly typical Macdonald. It is as much about personal corruption as public corruption, the plot is complex without ever feeling contrived, and the characters are as always fascinating. Indeed, they drive this story - sometimes sedately, sometimes with complete disregard for the safety of others.

What makes this so special is the depth of the psychological insight, set out effortlessly through the story and its inhabitants. It is about insanity, regret, the infinite shades of morality that lie between those two impostors ‘good’ and ‘bad’. It is about how we deal with guilt; it is about the nature of guilt. It is also an exploration of existentialism. Not bad for a book that on the surface is a noirish thriller about murder.

The other thing that makes this book so special is that all the above is the result of the plot. The story is key. The situations, the events, and the characters present us with the ideas and discussions without once breaking the narrative. Events happen within a couple of days. And apart from quite natural discussions with a psychiatric social worker, the exposition is the story.