The Long Good-Bye is Philip Marlowe novel written by Raymond Chandler. I think one of my favourite crime novels of all time must be The Big Sleep and the first chapter of that novel doesn’t have a single stray comma, word or sentence. And The Big Sleep is probably one of the few books that I have read more than once. The sheer quality of the writing drives on the narrative and engages the reader with the characters even though there may be the occasional plot hole.
Chandler is the master of that hard boiled American noir and he wrote very few novels. Philip Marlowe is his standout creation, an honest man with a principled sardonic view of life - the master of the pithy one-liner.
The Long Goodbye opens with Terry Lennox a drunk and an acquaintance of Marlowe being implicated in the death of his wife and persuades Marlowe to help him flee to Mexico. When Lennox is found dead things begin to spiral out of control and Marlowe finds himself drawn into the sordid world of high-rolling drunks and adulterers in Los Angeles’ Idle Valley.
This isn’t the classic sort of police procedural where the detective uncovers clues but Marlowe has an unshakeable conviction that Terry Lennox wasn’t responsible for killing his wife and that a mystery needs to be uncovered. There are some exquisite passages of description – don’t miss the one where Marlowe defines a blonde.
He works as a private investigator but he takes a principled stance even to the point of subjecting himself to incarceration in the local police station when he wasn’t guilty. He can be rude and acerbic but he knows right from wrong and the novel has an intensity that propels the characters and plot forward. Marlowe shares with us his contempt for the cynical spoiled society in which he lives.
Raymond Chandler said that character is plot and with Marlowe he had created a wonderfully engaging individual. His novels are a must for anybody who enjoys crime novels.