Vintage Crime, 1940, 304 pages
Eight years ago Moose Malloy and cute little redhead Velma were getting married - until someone framed Malloy for armed robbery. Now his stretch is up and he wants Velma back.
PI Philip Marlow meets Malloy one hot day in Hollywood and, out of the generosity of his jaded heart, agrees to help him. Dragged from one smoky bar to another, Marlowe's search for Velma turns up plenty of dangerous gangsters with a nasty habit of shooting first and talking later. And soon what started as a search for a missing person becomes a matter of life and death....
Marlow almost literally stumbles into the plot in Farewell, My Lovely - he follows a big guy into a nightclub out of curiosity, the nightclub turns out to be a Negro club that tries to turn the big troublemaker out, violence ensues, and Marlow ends up talking to a lazy cop who can't be bothered to follow up on the murder of the black nightclub owner. So Marlow goes looking for the big guy himself.
The big guy - the aptly-named Moose Malloy - is looking for his girlfriend, who disappeared after he went to jail seven years ago. Naturally, Marlow finds her first.
Chandler is a smooth writer who still delivers prose that lesser writers can't match seven decades later. Sure, Philip Marlow's cases all begin to run together... a dame, a tough guy, some mobsters, some crooked cops, a couple of murders that don't quite add up until Marlow begins poking around and finding angles on the angles... Yet Chandler always makes the plot wrap up neatly in the end. Usually Marlow gets roughed up a few times, some gorgeous dolls throw themselves at him, and for one reason or another he is unable or unwilling to take advantage, then he gets roughed up by the cops, then he gets taken somewhere for a private, ominous conversation with the local kingpin, and eventually the original murder turns out to be some tawdry affair of the heart, or jealousy. Dames are always dangerous in Chandler's world, cops are rarely to be trusted, and a PI who's a stand-up guy shouldn't expect to get thanked for his troubles.
If you haven't read any Chandler, you really should. I liked The Long Goodbye and The Big Sleep, but now I've really come to love his writing, even though I couldn't tell you which of his books is my favorite.
There was a 1975 movie starring Robert Mitchum as Marlow. Unfortunately, I was not able to find it either on Netflix or at my library.
Also by Raymond Chandler: My reviews of The Long Goodbye and The Big Sleep.
My complete list of book reviews.