So, I guess third time’s the charm? because I picked up “Farewell, My Lovely” (1940) by Raymond Chandler after work last week and couldn’t put the book down.
“Farewell, My Lovely” by Raymond Chandler (1888 to 1959) is the 2nd book to feature private detective, Philip Marlowe. Marlowe was at the end of another case when he gets dragged along on a missing person search by ex-con, Moose Malloy, looking for his lady-love, Velma, in a” colored joint” on Central Avenue in Los Angeles.
Velma Valento was an entertainer, a Pierrot girl, eight years ago in what was once a white joint called Florians. The place has changed hands and no one knows who she is. Malloy says she quit writing to him six years ago while he was locked up in the Oregon State Pen for a bank robbery. He was caught because someone tipped off the police so he wants to find that person, too. Malloy’s brute force causes complications like murdering the manager. This is in the early pages of the story and not apart of the main plot. The police come after him but don’t know where to find him. Marlowe is asked to help find him but he gets hired to be a bodyguard for a rather tight-lipped gentleman trying to recover some stolen jewels. That takes him down a rabbit hole.
Marlowe goes into action, doing what he does best, asking questions, spitting out wisecracks while providing a little whisky to help loosen lips in his investigation. He has his work cut out for him when he’s confronted with corruption that points straight to Bay City, a town where people with enough money can buy elections. While working solo, Marlowe makes waves and turns the place upside down.
I enjoyed the story and the writing this time. Sometimes all it takes is the right book to get you in the door. What I enjoyed about the story was the mood and the atmosphere. I love Marlowe’s wisecracks and the people he exchanges them with. The criminals in here aren’t always just hiding out in the alleys. They are working at the police department or possibly in city government. These are “business men.” They are people with power who can crush Marlowe to smithereens but Marlowe is too well known. The police know him and assist him in his cases sometimes so that usually gives him a thin shield of protection.
The parts I love are when the story is winding down and the connections are pointed out. Marlowe shares his theories but the reader doesn’t always have the information to fill in the gaps. There comes a point in the story where Marlowe has it all figured out and he sets his plan into motion. He goes through with his plan or trap that may leave the reader in the dark somewhat but it ultimately leads to the big reveal. Usually that big reveal is a big surprise twist. In this story, well, it was a surprise but I kind of had my suspicions.
I know this post is already too long but I have to mention Miss Anne Riordan. She’s a cop’s daughter who has an interest in “local crime” and likes Marlowe. She won me over when Marlowe asked for her name: “What’s your first name?” “Anne. And don’t call me Annie.” Chandler includes a little romance in his books when he finds an opportunity. Although Riordan and Marlowe kind of play it close to the sleeve, there is some chemistry between them. Needless to say I liked their scenes together because it added a light romantic, humorous touch to the story:
“Cops are just people,” she said irrelevantly. “They start out that way, I’ve heard.” “Oh—cynical this morning.” She looked around the office with an idle but raking glance. “Do you do pretty well in here? I mean financially? I mean, do you make a lot of money—with this kind of furniture?”
“Farewell, My Lovely” gets a 4 out of 5 from me. The story was wonderful, as well as the dialogue, characters, setting and atmosphere. The thing I like about Chandler is that he always tries to add some humor to an otherwise dark story. Violence is rarely graphic but there are violent crimes. He just doesn’t linger over the details. He has a hero you like and want to root for. Overall, this was a quick read that ran about 292 pages and I enjoyed it all told from Marlowe’s POV. I still want to read “High Window” and “The Little Sister” before the year is out.
Attribution: “ Raymond Chandler Farewell My Lovely” by Source.