I finished reading THE THREE ROADS (1948), yesterday afternoon. It's the second mystery novel by Ross MacDonald that I've read in a row. This one is a stand alone crime story and is not part of the Lew Archer series.
In the book, Bret Taylor is a shell-shocked WWII Navy Lieutenant (today we'd call him a victim of post traumatic stress disorder) who's had his ship sunk by the Japanese. As if that trauma wasn't enough, when Taylor returns home to Los Angeles, he discovers that his young bride has been brutally murdered. The combination of events and the tremendous emotional and psychic stress that he's under causes him to gain amnesia. The novel opens in a military hospital, with Taylor making slow progress towards regaining his lost memories.
He's aided in his quest by one Paula West, a Hollywood screenwriter who was Taylor's first love prior to his short, tragic marriage. She's determined to stand by her man and help him recover, no matter the cost to both of them.
When Taylor is presented with information about his wife's murder, he leaves the hospital and sets out on a manhunt to find his wife's killer and do him (or her) in. What he finds isn't at all what he expected.
THE THREE ROADS is an intensely psychological crime novel, with much of the narrative taking place within the various characters' minds. There's a mystery to be solved and some gun play along the way but it's not an action novel by any stretch. However, MacDonald is a very good writer and he kept me turning the pages trying to guess the identity of the killer. There are a couple of major twists near the end of the book and the ending will leave you wondering what happens next to some of the characters. Recommended.