Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 286
Although Blue City lacks a central purpose and presents a fragmented view of contemporary society, many of the themes which Macdonald introduces here in embryonic form he worked out in some detail through the Lew Archer series. The search for identity, especially the child's search for the truth about its parents, and the twin themes of guilt and revenge, appear most prominent in this novel, but there is also present a concern for the past and a sensual decadence, both which will appear more prominently and with greater social significance in the later Lew Archer books.
When Blue City begins, the central character, who has been absent from his hometown for some five years, discovers that his father has been murdered; and since no one seems concerned that the killer has remained undiscovered, the son begins a search for the killers motivated by both guilt and revenge. His search takes him into the depths of the city where he discovers that his father was a corrupt politician and that the city is being run by a bunch of welter-weight crooks. Moreover, the inquiry yields unexpected results which allow the young man to come to terms with his guilt about his father, and to discover who he is independent of his parentage.
This is Macdonald's most violent novel, but the corruption and violence in the book remain pretty much isolated to those directly involved in the various criminal activities which form the background of the fiction. In the later novels this corruption will be more broadly spread among the general population, and suggests a socially more pervasive sense of moral decline. Also, in this novel the past appears less a force in the present and more elusive.
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