The Lady in the Lake

Posted: April 6, 2021 in Book reviews
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By Raymond Chandler

When PI Philip Marlowe is hired by rich businessman Derace Kingsley to find his wife, Crystal, he has no idea how what seems like a simple case will skew into something with wider implications. Supposedly Crystal has eloped with her lover, a gigolo named Chris Lavery, only Lavery is still in Bay City, and there’s no sign of Crystal with him.

Marlowe’s investigations will take him from Bay City up into the countryside and Little Fawn Lake, where Kingsley has a cabin. Suddenly it isn’t only Crystal Kingsley who might be missing. What happened to Muriel Chess, wife of the caretaker of Kingsley’s cabin, and what, if any, connection is there between the two women and the wife of Dr Almore, a woman who died months before, and who lived across the road from Lavery? And how is thuggish cop Al Degarmo involved?

My third Chandler novel, and yes I am reading them all out of order, but this doesn’t seem to matter so I’ll continue doing so. The plot of this book felt somewhat more organised than in the other books I’d read, and I had wondered if this was an original story by Chandler, but no, checking after finishing it becomes apparent that yet again Chandler cannibalised three of his short stories. For saying that it’s impossible to see the joins, he knits the distinct elements together well, and I’ve no desire to dig deeper into the matter because the novel worked just fine for me, in fact for once Chandler caught me on the hop with the final reveal, and what at first seems a relatively simple tale is far more serpentine than I’d imagined, with great characters and a notable femme fatale.

It’s interesting to see Marlowe out of his comfort zone and away from LA, and to see references to soldiers guarding the dam on his way to the lake, this was written not long after Pearl Harbour and American found itself once more at war. There’s a great little section that talks about how politics and policing needs good people, but doesn’t always pay enough to attract them which is still quite pertinent almost a century later.

Though at times it’s a little old fashioned, particularly grammatically, I continue to adore Chandler’s prose. Before the next Chandler novel I might investigate his short stories, though I am nervous of chancing upon the basis for some of his books.

All in all a fine outing for Philip Marlowe.

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