Reviewing a classic: Lady in the Lake (Philip Marlowe 04) by Raymond Chandler

Product info (from Goodreads):

A couple of missing wives—one a rich man’s and one a poor man’s—become the objects of Marlowe’s investigation. One of them may have gotten a Mexican divorce and married a gigolo and the other may be dead. Marlowe’s not sure he cares about either one, but he’s not paid to care. He’s paid to find out what happened.

My impressions:

First published in 1943, it is the fourth book in a series penned by Raymond Chandler. The man is a legend. He started his career as a writer in 1932, at age forty-four, after losing his job as an oil company executive during the Depression. Three of Chandler’s novels are often considered to be masterpieces of detective fiction:  Farewell, My Lovely (1940), The Little Sister (1949), and The Long Goodbye (1953). This one isn’t among them and I completely understand why.

The narrative starts off very well – Marlowe is asked to find a missing wife, Chrystal Kingsley. Her husband is worried and not without a reason – Chrystal was wild, spoiled, and financially independent. Soon the detective has another case on his hands, that of Muriel Chess whose body he finds in the lake while investigating the disappearance of Chrystal. Did the women know each other? Were they somehow connected? If yes, how? It was very nice, coherent and easy to follow – up to a point. The close-to-perfect plot was marred at the end, becoming predictable, almost silly, even though the author tried some of his tricks. Perhaps he didn’t think it through as thoroughly as in the case of previous books. Perhaps he lost inspiration. It happens. Also I missed the trademark witty dialogues and internal monologues of Marlowe. Still the book wasn’t a complete fail. In order to prove it I would like to quote four brilliant sentences:

“Police business,” he said almost gently, “is a hell of a problem. It’s a good deal like politics. It asks for the highest type of men, and there’s nothing in it to attract the highest type of men . So we have to work with what we get— and we get things like this.”

Final verdict:

A second rate Chandler novel which ending seemed to me ridiculous even though the prose was flowing nicely for most of the story. Still, mind you, a second rate Chandler remains way better than first rate of many other whodunit authors.

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9 Responses to Reviewing a classic: Lady in the Lake (Philip Marlowe 04) by Raymond Chandler

  1. heidenkind says:

    I’ve never tried Chandler. Even the movies based on his books don’t really appeal to me. But that’s one helluva quote.

  2. J.R.Bee says:

    That’s a shame. The title of the book grabbed me, but your review says to me I should stick to my already teetering pile of books to be read.

  3. blodeuedd says:

    Chandler sounds like something else

  4. Carole Rae says:

    Oooo these sound good. Even though this one wasn’t the greatest. The series seems interesting

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