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Sleeping Beauty
By Ross MacDonald
Read By A Full-Cast

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Sleeping Beauty

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Sleeping Beauty
By Ross MacDonald
Read by a full-cast, staring Harris Yulin as Lew Archer
The Audio Partners Publishing Corp., (1997)
ISBN: 1-57270-049-1
A Complete and Unabridged Audio Recording - 6 cassettes.
Genre: Mystery

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - August 19, 2001

It is a simple truth to state that Ross MacDonald's mysteries are never simple. Even when they appear, on the surface, to be straightforward, there are always hidden depths that emerge as the story progresses. Sleeping Beauty is one such story. On the surface it appears to be a straightforward piece of detective fiction - find the missing girl, but it is really so much more....

The day after a disastrous oil rig explosion that caused a huge oil spill, Lew Archer stumbles across a young woman on the beach. She is distressed by the damage being caused by the oil spill. When Archer first meets her, she is attempting to clean the oil off of one of the many birds that have become soaked in the suffocating goo. Always a softie when it comes to a woman in distress, Archer ends up taking the young women home with him.

Laurel, the young woman whom Archer took home, is not just any hysterical woman. She is also the granddaughter of the man who owns the oil rig that is spilling the oil. And, unbeknownst to Archer, Laurel may also be suicidal. He only discovers this fact after she has stolen a bottle of Nembutal from his medicine cabinet, and has disappeared. When Archer realizes that the potentially lethal pills, and the girl, are missing, he sets out to find her - before it is too late.

Lew Archer is your typical hard-boiled private detective. To the world, he presents an image of emotional strength, and a devil-may-care attitude, but at his heart he sometimes cares too much. This makes him vulnerable, and deliciously human. From its rather stereotypical beginning, the plot of Sleeping Beauty quickly thickens. Not only does Archer have to contend with the missing girl, and the idea that, in a manner, he might be responsible for her death, but he also must deal with her grossly complex family, a ransom demand, and a couple of dead bodies. To complicate matters, when a ransom demand is made for the return of Laurel, Archer, and her family, must ponder the agonizing question, is the ransom demand for real? The reason for this quandary is that when she was a teenager, Laurel devised a plot to raise money for herself and her boyfriend, by faking her own kidnaping. These twist and turns are but a sampling of the varied levels of this elaborate plot that delves into the secrets of the present, as well as of the past.

Sleeping Beauty is a dark, psychological drama that investigates the deepest feelings and motivations of people involved in the story. With wit and uncanny insights about the baser aspects of human nature, MacDonald brings his characters to life, and step by step, Archer uncovers the veils that the various characters have shrouded themselves in. As the veils are removed, their true natures emerge, as do the answers to the many questions that Archer uncovers as he searches for the missing girl.

The story is well paced, dark, and moody. MacDonald adroitly immerses you in Archer's world. As always, MacDonald's writing is elegant and his dialogue is naturalistic. Combined, the story flows smoothly from one intriguing scene to another with unrelenting vigor. The raw intensity of this story is amplified by the splendid, unabridged, dramatic reading presented in this Audio Partners' edition of Sleeping Beauty.

This audio performance of Sleeping Beauty is performed by a 35-member strong, stellar cast that includes Harris Yulin, Ed Asner, Stacy Keach, Veronica Cartwright, Shirley Knight, Richard Masur, and Mary Kay Place, to name just a few. The roles are wonderfully cast and Harris Yulin "is" Lew Archer. I could not imagine anyone else portraying Archer. Yulin's not only portrayed Archer's obstinacy and arrogance, but he also gave Archer's voice just a touch of sadness. It is this sadness, that most fully brings Archer to life. Archer leads a life that constantly exposes him to the more appalling visages of human life, including sin, murder, and mental instability. This performance is enlivened by a full music score that perfectly matches the moodiness of the story.

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