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In this masterful Macdonald mystery, the desert air is hot with sex and betrayal, death and madness, and only Archer can make sense of a killer who makes murder a work of art. The era is the 1970s; the setting, Southern California. Lew Archer has been hired to retrieve a stolen canvas reputed to be the work of the celebrated Richard Chantry, who vanished in 1950 from his home in Santa Teresa. It is the portrait of an unknown woman. Suddenly, Archer finds himself drawn into a web of family complications and masked brutalities stretching back fifty years, through a world where money both talks or buys silence; where social prominence is a murderous weapon; where, behind the plausible facades of homes not quite broken but badly bent, a heritage of lies and evasions pushes troubled men and women deeper into trouble. And as he pursues the Chantry portrait and the larger mystery of Richard Chantry, Archer himself is shaken as never before--by a woman.