While the second to last Philip Marlowe novel was the longest, the last was the shortest, coming in at about 170 pages in its most recent reprint.
In it, Marlowe is hired by an attorney to follow a woman with very little explantion. He follows her to Esmerelda, a fictionalized version of LaJolla.
There Marlowe encounters blackmail and a corpse that disappears from the balcony of the woman he was hired to follow.
All things considered, this is a book that I wish Raymond Chandler hadn’t bothered to right. The beginning is promising, but 2/3 through the story begins to collapse.
Chandler, at his finest wrote involved and complex tales of mystery. There was always more than meets the eye to a Chandler mystery. Here, there is far less. I literally said out loud, “That’s it!” and tossed the book aside until my determination to finish books I start compelled me to read on.
Chandler’s characters are also far flatter than in previous works. You won’t find any characters who approach the level of those in other novels. There’s no one like General Sternwood, Moose Malloy, Bill Chess, or Terry Lennox in this entire novel.
While the dialogue isn’t as good as in other books, there’s still a few decent lines in this one and that’s one saving grace.
And then there are the other issues of Marlowe’s encounters with two different women. Thankfully, there’s nothing shown, which is the most artful thing about this portion of the book. The writing by Chandler is just embarrassing. The dialogue is awful, and the set up is clumsy. The relationship with Linda Loring in The Long Goodbye is elevated to some high exalted status of her being an old flame, when she just came over for an evening before leaving town.
Worse than that, Marlowe admits that sleeping with one of the women was unethical as an Investigator and then it does it anyway and it’s not like there’s some psychological reason for it or an internal struggle that Marlowe’s better nature loses, there’s no reason at all given. At the end of the book, it appears that all that remains of the ethical core of Marlowe from The Big Sleep is an eccentric aversion to taking money for getting himself beaten up and inconvenienced.
The book is sad because it shows how much of a toll alcoholism and depression took on a great author. It’s one of the worst books written about a classic detective by his actual creator. It’s the one Marlowe book that’s never been made into a movie and hopefully never will be. It’s a forgettable or at least I hope it is as I’ll certainly be doing my best to forget it.
Rating: 1.75 out of 5.00
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