Re: RARA-AVIS: THE DARK TUNNEL, by Ross MacDonald 1944

From: Ed Lynskey (
Date: 12 Dec 2002

> I read Ross's THE DARK TUNNEL a few weeks ago. Is that
> considered one of
> his spy novels? The main protagonist is a college professor,
> and he
> discovers a Nazi spy operation tapping information out of the
> college
> military board's files.
> I was a bit disappointed with this book. It wasn't really
> bad, but it was
> my introduction to Ross MacDonald and seeing as how he is one
> of the "big
> three," I expected better.
> I have a hard time putting my finger on exactly what I thought
> it was
> missing. I guess, for one thing, I didn't find the main
> protagonist
> compelling. The characters were not bad, but the book was
> definitely
> plot-dominated. I know I'm being vague here, but when I
> compare this book
> to be smooth,
> colorful, and entertaining, whereas THE DARK TUNNEL seems
> awkward,
> contrived, and technical. My "contrived and technical" label
> probably comes
> from his use of the old "locked room" crime made popular by
> Poe in his
> "Murders in the Rue Morgue" story. The solution of this type
> of mystery
> usually proves tedious for me.
> I'm hoping I like the Archer books better.
> miker


I posted about my reading Ross Mac's MEET ME AT THE MORGUE
(1953) a bit back. Howard Cross, the protag, is a probation officer. This makes him sort of a cop but not exactly one (like PI Lew Archer). The setting is LA and RM invokes credible, crisp descriptions of it. I always like that, being tugged back into a time and place . . . it adds meat to any novel. MORGUE is also pre-Archer and I haven't read THE DARK TUNNEL yet, but the writing IMO was striking and competent.

Ed Lynskey



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