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July 21, 1996|CHARLES SOLOMON

THE DROWNING POOL by Ross MacDonald (Vintage: $11.; 244 pp.). During the '50s, Ross MacDonald reigned as master of the noir mystery. Although he lacked Raymond Chandler's gift for outrageous metaphor, his moody vision of the seamy underside of Southern California remains compelling: "There was nothing wrong with Southern California that a rise in the ocean level wouldn't cure." In "The Drowning Pool," sardonic detective Lew Archer finds himself embroiled in a complicated family scandal in Nopal Valley, a once-beautiful landscape disfigured by oil wells and corrupt petroleum magnates. Tautly paced and plotted, it remains an outstanding example of the genre, 46 years after its initial publication. Vintage plans to reprint all of MacDonald's crime fiction: "The Drowning Pool" is being reissued with "Black Money" and "The Chill," and three additional titles will appear in the fall.

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