My favourite crime novels – number 11

Farewell, My Lovely – Chandler’s second novel was also, until The Long Goodbye at least, his best. The descriptive language is seductive and superb and the metaphors are still among the finest ever to be committed to any page of any kind of fiction, never mind crime. It is also one of the funniest of the Philip Marlowe novels.

It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window.

We sneered at each other across the desk for a moment. He sneered better than I did.

Even on Central Avenue, not the quietest dressed street in the world, he looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food.

Farewell, My Lovely is also the novel where Marlowe comes into his own. There’s a reason why, aside from Sherlock Holmes, Marlowe is the most famous detective of them all, and that reason is because he is so bloody compelling. The wisecracks that mask the vulnerability, the fact that he can be beaten and bruised, his honesty, even when it costs him, and his observations about a world that couldn’t care less if he lived or died, all of them add up to create an impression of the man, even though biographical details are few and far between. I re-read this novel every few years or so, because I love it. It doesn’t matter that I know the plot backwards, I just love revelling in Marlowe’s company for a few days or so.


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