Like all of Raymond Chandlers novels, The High Window features private detective Philip Marlowe as first-person narrator reporting events unfolding as he attempts to crack a case in sun-soaked Los Angeles. Oh, clever Odysseus, who fooled the Cyclopes, who heard the song of the Sirens and lived to tell the tale, Raymond Chandler gave you a rebirth as a private eye. For anybody unfamiliar with Chandler, here is a snatch of dialogue taking place in Marlowe's office when a member of a very rich family comes to speak with the detective: He looked me over without haste and without much pleasure. "Pulse and respiration normal?" You wouldn't like a cold towel on your head or anything." Through Marlowe, Chandler introduces us to a host of gangsters, crooks, con-artists, thugs, goons and their dames, who take turns planning, threatening and committing violence as if they were flesh-and-blood members of the weasel patrol from Toontown. This contrast between the crime and social grime of 1940s Los Angeles and the presence of Philip Marlow gives Chandler's work real abiding depth. There are hundreds of authors, some very good, who have written detective fiction or crime fiction but what sets Raymond Chandler apart is the polished literary language matching any American author, including the likes of F. This is the prime reason I have included the above quotes and the reason I will end this review with another sparkling vintage Chandler quote, this one where Marlowe describes the woman he sees when being led by a tall, dark, olive skinned crook to the back yard of a suburban LA mansion: "A long-limbed languorous type of showgirl blond lay at her ease in one of the chairs, with her feet raised on a padded rest and a tall misted glass at her elbow, near a silver ice bucket and a Scotch bottle.
In Pasadena, a small, quiet, wealthy city outside L.A. lives in one of those mansions that some people envy, other hate a certain Mrs. Elizabeth Bright Murdock, twice widowed...one under very strange circumstances...he fell out of a high window, thus the title. Also there is a small quiet room, a hidden cubicle, little known about , of its existence in the rather now quaint, some unkind ignorant people will say ...what ...An edifice , an oasis, Merle Davis, where Mrs. Murdoch's fragile, pleasant secretary works.. For an obviously bright guy, Marlowe is in a racket that pays little...peanuts... Raymond Chandler again reveals his prodigious talent , letting the public see the underworld of a town called Hollywood, ( he lived and worked there) only this writer can show so well, like it or not...undoubtedly the majority will enjoy.
The client insists that her daughter-in-law, whom she hates, has taken the coin although she has no proof. As is the case with any Raymond Chandler plot, it's all pretty confusing, although in the end, this one gets sorted out better than most.
I said I was a man named Marlowe. In an opening scene that induces in the reader familiar with Chandlers novels a strong feeling of deja-vu, Marlowe is called to an opulent mansion by a cranky old person of feeble health and given an easy job : not to find a missing young woman, but to track down a missing, very rare and precious gold coin. On the wide cool front porches, reaching their cracked shoes into the sun, and staring at nothing, sit the old men with faces like lost battles. Out of the apartment houses come women who should be young but have faces like stale beer; men with pulled-down hats and quick eyes that look the street over behind cupped hand that shields the match flame; worn intellectuals with cigarette coughs and no money in the bank; fly cops with granite faces and unwavering eyes; cokies and coke peddlers; people who look like nothing in particular and know it, and once in a while even men that actually go to work. He can make even a grocery list or a bland description of his office sound like poetry: Three hard chairs and a swivel chair, flat desk with a glass top, five green filing cases, three of them full of nothing, a calendar and a framed license bond on the wall, a phone, a washbowl in a stained wood cupboard, a hatrack, a carpet that was just something on the floor, and two open windows with net curtains that puckered in and out like the lips of a toothless old man sleeping. I am pretty sure I will not remember much of the plot five years from now, which might actually be a bonus, since I can re-read the novel and still enjoy some surprises like why is the title referring to a window, when the mission is about a gold coin?
Whenever I review one of Raymond Chandlers Philip Marlowe novels I feel like I should be doing it with a half-bottle of rye on the desk next to the cigarette burning in an ashtray with my fedora pushed back on my head. (view spoiler)I loved that after Marlowe figured out the whole mess that he essentially just threw up his hands and decided to let it play out with only a few nudges from him while he focused on trying to help the one true victim.
Philip Marlowe is hired to find the Brasher doubloon, a valuable gold coin stolen from its owner. The High Window, Raymond Chandler's third Philip Marlowe book, is no exception. A wise man once said "No one reads Raymond Chandler for the plot." I agree with whomever that wizzened old sage was. While it's my least favorite of the three Chandler books I've read so far, The High Window is still a great read, if for no other reason than to experience Raymond Chandler's prose.
The writing quality is good; the mystery is excellent (it is even better than the ones in the previous books). This book and the previous ones made Philip Marlowe a sample after which all private investigators of noir literature were made by the writers who came after Raymond Chandler.
Just like a detective in a book. I really like Philip Marlowe, I've decided. As with all of this series, they all seem very cinematic to me, like half remembered movies from long ago. So far in this series, Philip Marlowe has almost been an entity outside of Chandlers writing, and had an entertainment value almost divorced of the book.
His first short story, "Blackmailers Don't Shoot", was published in 1933 in Black Mask, a popular pulp magazine. The Long Goodbye is praised within an anthology of American crime stories as "arguably the first book since Hammett's The Glass Key, published more than twenty years earlier, to qualify as a serious and significant mainstream novel that just happened to possess elements of mystery".