William Goldman, writing in the New York Times, referred to Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer novels as "the finest series of detective novels ever written by an American". This is one of those, so it's pretty good. I've been gradually re-reading the series over the past few years.
It occurs to me, however, that if all you knew about American crime was from reading Lew Archer novels, you might presume that it all was a result of deep-seated guilt-ridden family issues reaching back decades. That's the case here as well.
Even though Archer is a private eye, this case falls into his lap: as he's feeding birds outside his apartment one morning, a small boy living in the apartment below with his mother, introduces himself and helps out. But the boy is almost immediately spirited away by his father and a mysterious blonde, up see grandma in Santa Teresa. The boy's mother decides to give chase, Archer tags along. Things are complicated by a menacing fire in the hills above Santa Teresa, and before long the bodies start piling up, and we meet a dizzying number of colorful characters, most of them hiding some of the past's dark secrets.
Archer has been played in movies and on TV by Paul Newman, Brian Keith, and Peter Graves. These days, were I casting a movie, I'd see if I could get Terry O'Quinn, the guy that plays Locke on Lost.