The Three Roads

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First edition (publ. Knopf)

The Three Roads is a 1948 mystery novel written by Kenneth Millar. This was Millar's fourth novel, and the final one published using his real name—he is generally better known by his later pseudonym Ross Macdonald.

"For now I am discovered vile, and of the vile. O ye three roads, and thou concealed dell, and Oaken copse, and narrow outlet of three ways, which drank my own blood..." - Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannus

Plot summary[edit]

Lieutenant Bret Taylor married his wife after knowing her only over a single overnight drinking binge while on shore leave during the war. His ship is bombed out of the water and he returns home to find his wife freshly murdered in the home he bought but had never seen. The shock of the two events sends him into a mental lapse, and he's in an asylum. The woman who loves him, a successful screenwriter, calls in a specialist who jogs his memory—and his sense of duty. Taylor hits the streets of Los Angeles, digging through his wife's lies and lovers in an attempt to avenge her murder.

The book is a psychological thriller, with the main action being the unraveling of the story within Taylor's mind. The reader is denied information that other major characters obviously have throughout the whole novel, and is meanwhile treated to long passages of theories from the main character.

Alfred A. Knopf, Jr., who functioned as an editing publisher, asked for revisions in what he considered a slow-paced novel. Millar cut '10,000 good words' and concentrated the action into four days.[citation needed]

The 1980 movie Deadly Companion (or Double Negative) was based on this novel.