The High Window
Author: Raymond Chandler
American release date: July 12, 1988 (rerelease)
Format/Genre/Length: Novel/Crime/272 pages
Publisher/Industry Age Rating: not rated
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★
Marlowe goes to Pasadena to meet a client about a job. First he has to get past the secretary. Miss Davis is a rather meek soul, who asks for his references, and once they check out, she takes him to see the client—Mrs. Elizabeth Murdock. Mrs. Murdock is a large, hard woman with an unpleasant attitude, one that isn’t above haggling Marlowe about what his expenses consist of. The situation is this—something of value has been stolen from her, and she suspects the culprit to be her daughter-in-law, the item in question being a very rare and valuable coin known as a Brasher Doubloon.
Mrs. Murdock didn’t know the coin was missing until she received a suspicious phone call from a dealer named Morningstar making inquiries as to whether the coin was for sale. The thing is that any reputable dealer would know the coin isn’t for sale, per the stipulations of the late Mr. Murdock’s will. Then she checked and found out the coin was missing. She figures it was an inside job, as those are the only people who would have access to it. Mrs. Murdock wants the coin back, but she doesn’t know where her son’s wife went—plus she wants a divorce arranged. Marlowe agrees to take the case, and is handed back to the secretary to get his retainer—along with a little information, some voluntary, some not so. He learns that Linda Murdock, formerly Linda Conquest, once roomed with another girl named Lois Magic. And he learns that the secretary, Merle, has quite a thing, in her own quiet way, for Mrs. Murdock’s son, which includes keeping his monogrammed handkerchief in a drawer, as well as a small caliber pistol.
As Marlowe leaves the Murdock residence, he notices a sand-colored coupe that seems to be following him. But he could be wrong about that.
Marlowe returns to his office, and while he’s thinking about the case, he receives a visitor—Mr. Leslie Murdock, the son. He’s trying to find out why Marlowe’s been hired, but the PI is too cagey to divulge that bit of information. Murdock reveals more than he learns—namely, that he still loves his wife, and that he is into a guy named Morny for some big money, maybe twelve grand. Marlowe sends him on his way, and calls up Morningstar, making an appointment to see him at his office at 3 o’clock.
He can’t find Lois Magic in the phone book, so he uses a connection to learn what he can about Morny. Turns out he married Lois Magic. Small world indeed. He gets an address and heads over there, but the hired help say she isn’t at home. Well, there’s more than one way to do things, so Marlowe does it his way, and finds out from the chauffeur that Mrs. Morny is indeed at home, in the backyard, along with Mr. Vannier.
Marlowe runs into the sand-colored coupe and its driver again, and confronts him. The guy breaks down and admits he’s been following Marlowe. His name is Phillips and he’s also a PI, working a case. Maybe they can work it together, since the cases seem to be related. He makes a time for Marlowe to come over to his place, and just for insurance, he gives him a key, in case he arrives first.
Marlowe shows up, but it’s too late for Phillips.
And he’s only the first stiff.
Fake coins, missing wives, cheating wives, terrified secretaries, and a body count that just won’t quit. All in the job description for Phillip Marlowe.
The High Window is the third book in the Philip Marlowe series. I liked it as much as I did the others. Chandler has a way with words that is truly unique, and he paints a vivid picture of the times and the people, drawing memorable characters. I like that Marlowe has layers, and we see more and more of those layers as time goes on. In this story, he’s a real gentleman. We already knew he was honest. The story has all the ingredients of a good mystery—dead bodies, people with secrets, lies, and mysteries. I look forward to reading the next book.