by Raymond Chandler
“Who put me in here, why and how? I’m in a wild mood tonight. I want to go dance in the foam. I hear the banshees calling. I haven’t shot a man in a week. Speak out, Dr. Fell. Pluck the antique viol, let the soft music float.”
In addition to the outstanding Marlowe character, this second novel introduces the compelling Moose Malloy, a massive man just released from prison looking for his lost lover Velma. Marlowe accidentally gets mixed up in the situation but can’t let any loose strings dangle, so again he follows a labyrinthine set of events to uncover the truth.
This novel’s no less complex than the first, and that one’s famous for it’s obfuscating story, especially in the truncated film version. There’s a big difference here, though, as this second novel starts strong then bogs down under the weight of details in the first half, then maintains its high complexity but manages to speed up during the second—it becomes less a pleasure and more a joy to follow along.
Marlowe maintains his charisma he established in The Big Sleep, but there are major differences between him as an investigator and other P.I.’s from detective novels published around the same time. The guy’s tough and cool, but he knows he can be hurt and attempts to avoid the trouble that other noir detectives barrel straight towards, giving him a more grounded existence with which it’s easier to relate.
I needed a drink, I need a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun. I put them on and went out of the room.
Another interesting facet of the character and the books within which he lives is these stories don’t have start to finish plots, just meandering through complex tunnels. Chandler instead uses possible plot elements that Marlowe follows, often ending in brick walls and forcing him back to earlier intersections to take different routes.
(I’m no mystery expert, but am getting better and find this a fairly unique, intriguing element to the Marlowe stories. It’s easier to suspend disbelief when the labyrinth mirrors the reality of start-and-stop plot lines and messy solutions.)
Only two books into the seven novel set of Marlowe stories, he’s already becoming a favorite. Perhaps the favorite. There’s a long way to go through the old masters of mystery and hard-boiled crime, but Chandler shines bright among his spotlighted contemporaries. Farewell, My Lovely may not contain the surprise introduction of Marlowe, and it may start rougher than it’s predecessor, but it delivers an excellent mystery, living, breathing, yet larger than life characters, and an excellent read that accelerates to a magnificent end.
“You like it the hard way, don’t you, Marlowe?”
“It’s not that I like it the hard way. It’s that I get it that way.”