This is a wonderful novel!
Lawrence Osborne (a writer, I confess, I’d never read before) has taken Philip Marlowe and done something really interesting with him. He isn’t here trying to sort our loose ends from THE BIG SLEEP or THE LONG GOODBYE, which – however diverting – really do fall into the trap of retreading old ground. Instead he’s investigating a case in Mexico in the 1980s! This isn’t then a Marlowe sealed in a Noir aspic, this isn’t Marlowe fixed at a point where Bogart could still play him – but a much older and yet still vibrant version of him.
And it works!
The character of Marlowe was always a man out of time. An Arthurian knight forced to walk the mean streets of L.A. So, pulling him further out of time doesn’t do the damage to the character that I thought it might. There was always an elegiac quality to Marlowe, always a sadness there, and as the man finds himself closer to the end than the beginning, that melancholy is now fully at the fore. He’s still going to do his duty, he still retains his dry wit and descriptive powers, this is still the highly moral Philip Marlowe we know – but now he’s an old man looking back as much as he is forward.
In a way the plot is incidental, which was always the way with Chandler’s books. Marlowe is brought out of retirement by an insurance company wanting to investigate the death of a real estate developer. (And a corrupt American real estate developer in the 1980s can’t but make you think of you know who – he even has the first name ‘Donald’). What matters is the characters and the dialogues and the sense of place and the atmosphere, all of which are beautifully evoked and brilliant.
I wouldn’t have said this about the other post Chandler attempts to do Marlowe, but for all fans, this is a genuine must read.
My debut novel, THE WANNABES – which has been out of print for a little while – is now available for free. A supernatural thriller of beautiful actresses and deadly ambition in London town, it’s well worth your time. You can get your copy here!