Friday, June 15, 2012

Farewell, My Lovely Review

Farewell, My Lovely  
Author: Raymond Chandler
Publisher: Vintage
American release date: July 12, 1988 (rerelease)
Format/Genre/Length: Novel/Crime/292 pages
Publisher/Industry Age Rating: not rated
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

While working a job that never pans out, PI Philip Marlowe is drawn against his will into a bar called Florian’s by a very huge man. Moose Malloy has just spent eight years doing time, and he’s looking for his girl Velma. Well, it has been eight years, and the bar’s changed hands since then. The new owners and employees know nothing of any Velma, but Moose gets mad and someone gets dead, and Marlowe finds himself in the middle of something he never bargained for.


Being a good PI, Marlowe calls the police, and the case goes to a fellow named Nulty, who tries to inveigle Marlowe into helping him solve it. Marlowe says he’ll let him know if he thinks of anything, then decides to follow up on the Velma angle. He goes into a hotel near the bar, asking about the previous owner, and learns where the man’s widow still resides. So Marlowe decides to pay her a visit.

Mrs. Florian is a house-bound soul with a fondness for alcohol. It isn’t hard to pry information out of her, armed with a bottle and a willingness to suffer being her drinking companion in order to get her to talk. The widow plays coy, but when she learns Moose is on the loose, she grows pale. Velma is dead, she says, so no use looking for her. Marlowe informs Nulty and goes back to his office.

There he receives a phone call about a job, although the caller is being very vague and mysterious about what he’s to be doing for his money. Money is money, so Marlowe gets the address and agrees to meet the client that night.  His name is Lindsay Marriott and he lives in the better part of time. He wants Marlowe to go with him while he does something, but he isn’t to be seen or do anything. Marlowe doesn’t like that and makes no bones about it, and then he lays down his rules. It seems that Marriott is paying to retrieve some stolen jewelry—very valuable jade, to be exact. It was taken from a lady, and the thieves are holding it for ransom.

Marlowe agrees to the job, for a hundred dollars, and instructions are received, along with directions. However, nothing is simple, and Marlowe gets sapped. By the time he wakes up, there’s a strange girl there by the name of Anne Riordan, and Lindsay Marriott is deceased. Marlowe checks the man’s pockets and finds something interesting—marihuana cigarettes in a cheap case. However, by the time the police arrive, those are no longer there.

Turns out Anne’s father was once police chief of Bay City, so she can’t help but be nosy about what she’s stumbled across. Marlowe finds her attractive in a more than pretty face kind of way. She returns the cigarettes she stole to him, and he makes an interesting discovery—hidden inside are the business cards of a local psychic, Jules Amthor. So Marlowe sets off to investigate.

A dead man, an escaped convict, a missing girl, graft in high polices, a crooked doctor, gambling—all these things and more lie in wait for Philip Marlowe. The question is, has he bitten off more than he can chew, and are there people who are determined that he not find out the truth, no matter how they have to silence him?


Farewell, My Lovely is the sequel to The Big Sleep. It’s another great read from Raymond Chandler. I’m really enjoying Marlowe’s adventures. He’s not a super hero, he’s just an ordinary guy, doing his job, and as such he’s not beyond getting hurt—and he does, because he keeps sticking his nose where it isn’t wanted.

One thing to keep in mind when you read this is that it’s a product of its times, much as Huckleberry Finn. Some of the terms used would be considered racist now, but they weren’t then, so you have to realize that and either not be offended, or not read the book. Those don’t detract from the enjoyment of the story.

Chandler has a definite way with words that I enjoy. For example, in talking about Marlowe’s first sight of Moose Malloy: “He was looking up at the dusty windows with a sort of ecstatic fixity of expression, like a hunky immigrant catching his first sight of the Statue of Liberty.”   His description of scenery is also unique, pure Marlowe:  “I got down to Montemar Vista as the light began to fade, but there was still a fine sparkle on the water and the surf was breaking far out in long smooth curves.”

This story has a lot of twists and turns, and I didn’t see the ending coming until it was on top of me. Raymond Chandler set the bar for detective stories, and he set it pretty damn high. I recommend this to anyone who loves mysteries and detectives, and to those who haven’t put your toe in the water, try it, you’ll like it.

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