I burned through two of Raymond Chandler’s novels, The Big Sleep and The High Window, so fast that I neglected to place them on my reading list. These two novels, having a private investigator in his late thirties as the protagonist, are true page turners. I am not sure whether I am more delighted by his ability to craft unique, realistic characters or his wonderful use of simile and metaphor. In particular, I liked when he described a gun pointing at him “like the Second Street Tunnel.” His creative use of metaphors and similes is one of the things which delights the reader and keeps one from placing down the book.
The Big Sleep happened to be Chandler’s first Philip Marlowe, the private investigator referred to above, novel. I have always been a fan of hardboiled fiction, but this was my first work of Chandler’s. This story, like the one below, is delivered from a first person perspective. Marlowe gets hired by a retired general, who asks him to dissolve a blackmail situation. He has two daughters, one has a gambling problem, and the other is crazy and gets into all sorts of problems. And yes, the latter is the one responsible for the blackmail situation. Overall, this is a very tense novel as Marlowe must confront everyone from petty crooks to the police to a crime boss. Most of the time, he’s not carrying a gun and needs to talk his way out of several tough situations. A great read.
Concerning how much I liked The High Window, it suffices to say that I read the novel in a day. Rare are the occasions when I do that! This one concerns a rich old lady who has a rare, gold coin from her collection stolen. She suspects her son’s wife of absconding with it. Similar to the above novel, this theft leads to a tale of murder, blackmail, and mystery. The characters are somewhat more varied here, and the old woman is a terribly difficult client. A must read.
Well, I hope that my dear readers will give these two works a try for light reading. They’re well worth it.