I'm working through Ross MacDonald's Lew Archer novels in slow-motion. How slow? I read the previous one in the series back in 2008. And the one before that in 2004. Sleeping Beauty, published in 1973, is the penultimate book in the series.
Not that it matters, I just like using the word "penultimate".
As things kick off, Lew is bemused by an offshore oil spill threatening the Southern California beaches. He visits the site of the disaster and is taken with a troubled young woman, Laurel, whose family (it turns out) owns the leaky well. She's also on the outs with her husband, Tom. Quickly, she gets into a spat with Lew and takes off. But not before she's filched a bottle of sleeping pills from his medicine cabinet. Lew sets off in search of Laurel, but she turns out to be surprisingly elusive.
As with most of the Archer books, Lew soon finds himself trying to sort out a sordid and devilishly complex history spanning decades. It's a challenge for the reader. In addition to Tom and Laurel, we're rapidly introduced to Jack, Blanche, Joyce, William, Sylvia, Marian, Benjamin, Elizabeth, Gloria, Harry, Allie, Connie, Tony, Martha, Ethel, Wilbur, Harold, … I may be missing a few. You don't know who's important, and you only gradually learn of unexpected past relationships and activities of these folks over the recent and distant past. Pay attention! Maybe take notes!
Lew goes down those mean streets, neither tarnished nor afraid. He does (however) get tired, sad, and lonely. I'm pretty sure that he only grosses $50 out of the deal, too. It's a tough way to make a living. But at least he finds time for some brief illicit canoodling with one of the ladies.