Monday, January 11, 2010

The Lady in the Lake

Here's how this works. I read a book or two and tell you about them and try not to get too long-winded, and maybe you'd like to think about reading them as well. This time, a review of The Lady in the Lake (Knopf, 1946).

You sort of expect, with a book entitled The Lady in the Lake and a case where Philip Marlowe is hired to find a missing woman, and the knowledge that there's a big lake on some property owned by the rich husband, that this isn't going to end well. But Raymond Chandler threw one fantastic curve ball in his fourth novel when Marlowe goes to meet up with a fellow who manages the properties far from the heat of Los Angeles and learns that this guy's wife is also missing.

This one's a slow-burning masterpiece, one that really gets into police corruption and public ugliness. It's a cool study in contrasts, with the getaway mountain community protected by a constable who selflessly serves, and the suburban town of Bay City protected by unrepentant thugs with badges who will gladly shove a drink down your throat in order to book you for drunk driving.

All of Chandler's novels are essential reading, but I think this one might be the best of the first four. Highly recommended!

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