on 25 December 2012
This is one of the lesser known Philip Marlowe tales, but it is very good. All of the Marlowe stories are slightly different in that they tend to emphasize different aspects of mystery writing. For example, The Long Goodbye really gets into Marlowe's psychological insights and emotions. The High Window is much more plot-driven, and the plot is very complicated. In fact it is slightly overcomplicated, which is why I have given it four stars rather than five. But for all that, it is still an excellent read and a full member of the Chandler genre. Highly recommended.
The third Marlowe and possibly the least known. A mixture of blackmail and murder in sweaty Pasadena.
It opens with echoes of The Big Sleep. This time it is an aging matriarch, Mrs Murdock, who recruits Marlowe, rather than the patriarch General Sternwood. Chandler plays on the 'inner hostility' between Murdoock and Marlowe including the brilliant line, 'We looked at each other with the clear innocent eyes of a couple of used-car salesmen'.
These one-liners are more sparingly used than in the first two novels.The homophobia and anti-semitism are removed and greater restraint applies to the use of drugs, sex and violence. The higher moral tone also extends to a more sympathetic hearing for the police with an attempt at proper characterisation via the cops Breeze and Spangler. It is tempting to wonder about the impact of WW2 on Chandler's style.
Even Marlowe himself is given a bit of a wash and brush-up; 'I'm not tough. Just virile'. He displays a soft side towards the underprivileged earning the soubriquet, 'a shop-soiled Galahad'.
As in The Big Sleep, this novel sometimes feels like two short stories welded together. ' I haven't bought anything and I haven't paid for anything. Now go away' the sozzled Murdock tells Marlowe, yet still he persists with a seemingly closed investigation.
Chandler portrays Morny, the night-club owner and ex-actor as 'Every action, every gesture .. right out of the catalogue' and my only tiny reservation over this novel is to what extent Chandler felt some of the writing was becoming 'out of the catalogue'.
This novel flew past and is much less convoluted than his earlier work. If you are already a Chandler fan or becoming one, please note that The Lady in the Lake and Other Novels (Penguin Modern Classics) is much better value than buying these novels individually.
"The High Window" (1942) is the third of Raymond Chandler's novels featuring the detective Philip Marlowe. Marlowe tells the story in his own inimitable voice. The action of the story takes place over a three day period in 1941 in Los Angeles. Marlowe is faced with a confusing series of crimes including murder, counterfeiting, robbery, and blackmail.
The plotting is difficult and cumbersome in following the different crimes; but all is explained, perhaps too neatly, in the end. There is a lengthy denouement in which Marlowe explains to several of the characters of the book the parties who have committed the crimes and their motives. Marlowe shows great acuity and powers of observation in working through the tangled situation.
In "The High Window" more than in the earlier two Marlowe books, the plotting gets in the way. It detracts from what are otherwise outstanding features of the book in its writing, its descriptive passages of Los Angeles and its development of a host of mostly unsavory characters. The strongest part of the book is the characterization of Marlowe himself which becomes deeper than in the early novels. Late in the book, a friend of Marlowe's describes him as the "shop-soiled Galahad", a phrase which sums up much of Marlowe's activities and character
Marlowe is retained by a wealthy curmudgeonly widow, Elizabeth Murdock, to investigate what the widow believes is the theft of a rare early American coin, the Brasher Doubloon, by her daughter-in-law, who is estranged from her son. Besides the widow Murdock, her hapless son Leslie, who cannot hold a job and is heavily in debt from gambling and Merle, Mrs. Murdock's timid, shy secretary, play large roles in the story.
Marlowe does not get along with either Elizabeth or Leslie Murdock. Investigating the doubloon's disappearance leads Marlowe deep into other crimes, and the police even suspect him of holding back information on the murders which follow in the wake of the doubloon. The crimes require great perceptiveness to resolve. But the emphasis on the book is on Marlowe's character in remaining loyal to the Murdocks even though he dislikes them intensely for good reason. He keeps the family out of harm's way with the law. More important still is Marlowe's idealism and his desire to do the right thing. As the story develops, he learns how and why Merle's life has become emotionally stunted during her years working for Mrs. Murdock. He takes it upon himself to rescue her from a poisonous situation in a way that goes well beyond any duty he had undertaken to Mrs. Murdock as a private detective. Marlowe shows moral heroism while in the midst of a tarnished, often violent life of a private detective. Marlowe does his job, speaks brilliantly and poetically, is highly educated, and recognizes the characters of the people with whom he deals. There is a great deal of atmosphere in the book with nightclubbing, sultry singing, suits and hats and cars, cigarettes, pipes, and cigars, and alcohol. Marlowe also is a student of chess. With all the surroundings of 1940's life, some of which are highly appealingly portrayed, and a great deal of less than stellar behavior, Marlowe indeed emerges, more so than in the two earlier books, as a moral hero and as a "shop-soiled Galahad".
The tough, inspired portrayal of Marlowe with his idealism and loyalty in a world shown as fallen more than make up for the complications of the plot in this novel. In this and in his other Marlowe novels, Chandler created an iconic American character. The book is available individually or as part of the first of two Library of America volumes including the "Stories and Early Novels" of Raymond Chandler.
on 5 January 2015
This is the third of Chandler's novels featuring hardboiled detective Philip Marlowe, and the first that I hadn't previously read as a kid. As a result I was coming to this book with an almost entirely fresh perspective. Nor was I disappointed.
The High Window comes across as a much less convoluted story than the first two books, and we get a glimpse at Marlowe's sympathetic side when he takes an interest in the novel's damsel in distress. That said, we still get to see plenty of sass from the wise-cracking shamus as he goes on the trail of a missing coin, almost literally tripping over dead bodies along the way.
Compared to the previous two books Chandler seems to have found his feet with this one, and I personally found his writing style more refined and more confident. The story seemed to flow more readily, and encounters that initially appear to be random and unconnected to the main case soon turn out to be deliberate and very much connected. By the end of the book the gal's been saved, the coin's been found, and even if not all of the killers are brought to justice, the whole mess has been wrapped up in a very neat bow by our hero.
Out of the three Marlowe books I've read so far I would certainly count this as my favourite, and based on this would probably recommend it as the first one to read for anyone unfamiliar with Chandler's work.
on 14 December 2013
I pretty much agree with the Stephen McDaniel review but would add Chandler really is in a class by himself who knew his business & wrote in a style you have to get into, there's alot going on here, I really enjoyed the journey from beginning to end.
Although it's a lesser known Marlowe, there's been two film noir style movies made of this particular book, 'Time to kill' (1943) and 'The Brasher Doubloon' (1947).
If you like his style, you will like this book immensely, I did...
on 9 March 2014
A few months ago I was looking for a new reading experience. I sat down with the lap top and asked the internet to recommend me a good book. Somewhere in the search Raymond Chandler cropped up. I hadn't read him before although I have heard of him probably through the films. I decided to start with his first novel ' The big sleep'. I thoroughly enjoyed it and had found a new enjoyable reading experience. I haven't quite finished all the books but none of them have disappointed so far and that includes this one.
Raymond Chandler had a particular style of writing, very much in the mid 20th century idiom of detective street talk. Somehow though it becomes enchantingly addictive the more I have read it. There are always plenty of twists turns as the stories unfold.
Suffice to say I recommend these books to other readers looking for a good read.
on 25 February 2015
Always a great read, the story is told in such a characterful way and for the most of it stands the test of time.there are some quirky expressions that pull you up and make you think " what the hell does that mean!" But I enjoy that.
Marlowe in this one strikes me as a bit soft and not as hard boiled as other novels, but still a great read, funny lines and you can see why they scooped up as films.
on 27 January 2015
Great story which keeps in line with the book. However, I didn't enjoy the dramatization so much primarily because Toby Stephens doesn't match by a long chalk Ed Bishop as Philip Marlow. Both productions were made by the BBC with Ed Bishop being made in the 1970s but the more recent play with Toby Stephens, fir nem just doesn't have the feel of the period, namely 1939 - early 1950s.
on 10 August 2013
A mystery tour full of the usual intriguing set of characters, surprising twists and a critical eye on LA's superficial lifestyle. Not as famous as some of his other tales but Chandler still holds you by his brilliant descriptions and one-liners. It doesn't matter where the plot takes you, just enjoy the ride.