In Ross MacDonald's The Wycherly Woman his protagonist, Lew Archer, encounters a wide variety of women. He encounters a school girl with a head filled with the theories of psychology. He meets an overprotective mother raising her son alone. He talks to a frigid, controlling woman who makes her husband's life unbearable. He interviews a woman once married to a hustler and who seems to be hiding something. He introduces himself to an artist who moves from place to place like a leaf in the wind. He is asked by a woman to kill a man for her, a man that has made her life unbearable.
Archer has been hired by Homer Wycherly to find his daughter, Phoebe, who has been missing for several months. He has just returned from a cruise, and has arrived home to discover that see has not been seen since the day his cruise ship departed. She left the ship with her mother, but Homer Wycherly forbids Archer from trying to contact his former wife, Catherine.
This of course, piques Archer's interest. Why wouldn't Mr. Wycherly want to have him interview the last person that saw his daughter? As Archer investigates the case, he gets the premonition that Phoebe Wycherly has been killed. He has no evidence, but his intuition tells him it must be so. In the process of his investigation he uncovers blackmail schemes, dirty real estate deals, and, of course, murder.
The consistent theme of the novel is women's relationships with the men they love. Often, the love they have for their men cause their lives to be one of constant turmoil. In the Wycherly case, it also leads to death. In the end, of course, the murderer is caught, and justice is served, but not in the traditional mystery sense. The ending is as unsettling as the one for Chinatown or L.A. Confidential. I guess that's why Ross MacDonald is still considered the master of the genre.
All text (C) 2000 LCB
AMAZON.COM is the registered trademark of Amazon.com, Inc.