27th May 2020. 3 stars.
One of my missions this year is to read the works of well-known crime writers, both old and current. As I have a preference for stories about private eyes and amateur sleuths, I chose Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe. I immediately liked the writing and style. The characters were pin sharp and well-drawn, and like many of the settings, described with an irreverent and cynical humour.
Marlowe’s the archetypal hard-boiled PI with a strong sense of justice and honour. He’s brave, confrontational and smart, with a clever turn of phrase and an answer for everything.
When Marlowe gives drunk, Terry Lennox a lift one evening, a convoluted and twisted tale of murder and deceit begins in Los Angeles. After the savage murder of Terry’s wife, he disappears, confesses to murder and kills himself.
But Marlowe’s not convinced. He digs around, upsetting various people, rich and influential, landing himself in trouble with the local police and generally making a nuisance of himself. His progress is slow and generally antagonist, sometimes with little happening for weeks, until he makes sense of everything at the end.
While the writing is high-quality, with some memorable descriptions and one-liners, the style became a little distracting and unrelenting as the story progressed. Marlowe’s behaviour became tiresome and repetitive as the pace dropped. It made the story feel long and drawn out, lessening the impact of the well-disguised final twist.
Down-and-out drunk Terry Lennox has a problem: his millionaire wife is dead and he needs to get out of LA fast. So he turns to his only friend in the world: Philip Marlowe, Private Investigator. He’s willing to help a man down on his luck, but later, Lennox commits suicide in Mexico and things start to turn nasty. Marlowe finds himself drawn into a sordid crowd of adulterers and alcoholics in LA’s Idle Valley, where the rich are suffering one big suntanned hangover. Marlowe is sure Lennox didn’t kill his wife, but how many more stiffs will turn up before he gets to the truth?