The improbably-named Johnny Weather hitchhikes into his unnamed hometown for the first time in years only to find that his father is dead and a stepmother he’s never met has inherited everything. Even worse is that his father’s murder remains unsolved due to a corrupt political machine and a compliant police department. Taking matters into his own fists, Weather brawls and shoots his way to a solution, plunging further and further into the rotten core of the city his father helped begrime.
This is another Ross Macdonald novel without his usual protagonist, private eye Lew Archer. Weather, a tough but intelligent young man fresh out of the armed forces, is a decidedly different kind of hero. He is quick to the point and unsubtle, ready to engage in fisticuffs at the drop of a hot and shows no compunction about using the gun in his pocket. It’s not certain whether he has a moral code or not, though the mission he is on is a moral one.
Blue City has a cinematic quality to it, such that it’s hard to believe it wasn’t filmed as a noir movie. There’s a chase scene after Weather becomes chief suspect in a murder that might as well be written in stage directions, as well as a romantic subplot that feels shoehorned in a bit.
With its elements of corruption polluting not just a city but the people who make up its soul, Blue City is reminiscent of the far superior Dashiell Hammett novel Red Harvest. There are several other Macdonald novels it also falls short of, but no Macdonald novel could ever be boring, and Blue City is well worth reading for fans of the genre.