Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler

September 3, 2013

farewell my lovely Plot summary (from the publisher): Marlowe’s about to give up on a completely routine case when he finds himself in the wrong place at the right time to get caught up in a murder that leads to a ring of jewel thieves, another murder, a fortune-teller, a couple more murders, and more corruption than your average graveyard.

Warning: Spoilers below!

Liked:

  • Chandler’s writing is interesting. The language he uses is typical of “hard-boiled detective” novels, of which he was a pioneer. Yet these same phrases sound cliche today, so I was caught between trying to appreciate what Chandler did and rolling my eyes at some of the imagery. In the end, I fell on the appreciative side.
  • Marlowe is a good protagonist. He’s competent, but not a super-sleuth. He gets things wrong. He drinks too much. He’s human. But he’s able to connect the dots better than the cops, which of course is essential in a detective story.

Disliked:

  • Chandler is not that good at weaving together a solid plot. Both The Big Sleep and Farewell, My Lovely suffer from plots that are unnecessarily complicated, hard to follow, and barely plausible. This one is no different, as the sound and fury builds to nothing more than a woman trying to escape her past by living under an assumed name.
  • There were so many characters flitting in and out of the action that it was difficult for me to keep them straight. Maybe I have adult ADHD or something, but the only people I could remember other than Marlowe himself were Moose Malloy, Anne Riordan, and Mrs. Grayle. There were a bunch of other characters involved, but I can’t recall a single other name now.
  • Speaking of Malloy, he was the character with the most potential. Unfortunately, his role turns out to be extremely limited. He spends a majority of the novel “off stage” with the other characters just talking about him.

Rating:

Any modern fan of mysteries or detective novels should read Chandler just for some history and perspective in the genre. So while Farewell, My Lovely is good for this purpose, it didn’t hold up for me as a standalone work. The plot was labyrinthine and the characters mostly dull and forgettable. I give this one 2 stars out of 5.

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