The Thumbnail Book Reviews

by John Q McDonald --- 5 May 2004


by Raymond Chandler

This was the last of the novels Raymond Chandler completed before his death. It was originally meant to be a screenplay, and was ironically the only one of his novels never made into a film of some sort. As a result, the book reads quickly and has the snappy scene-by-scene pacing of a screenplay. Unfortunately, this also results in the lack of plot and character development, as well as scenic detail and personal viewpoint one would expect from some of Chandler's better novels. It is clear that Chandler was growing bitter in his old age. As the decades passed, also, the scenic background and noir character of the novels has changed. This book seems more familiar and therefore less idiosyncratic than, say, The Big Sleep. In this outing, Philip Marlowe is on a long slow decline, taking jobs for more grounded noble purpose than for money. He is hired by a slick LA lawyer to trace a young woman arriving on a train from Washington, DC. He follows her from Union Station down to San Diego and to Esmeralda, (a pseudonym for La Jolla, where Chandler lived his last years). The woman has a shady past, and she is being blackmailed by a man threatening to expose her secret. In the end, the secret doesn't seem so deadly by today's standards. Even Marlowe doesn't seem to think so. It is a somber tale, and doesn't hold together with the style of Chandler's earlier books. Plus, he should always have stayed away from depicting sex of any sort. After this, Chandler's last book, Poodle Springs went unfinished.

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Also by Chandler: [The High Window] [The Big Sleep] [The Lady in the Lake] [The Little Sister] [The Long Goodbye] [Farewell, My Lovely]

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