When we think of the great detectives in American Hard-boiled Noir, two stand out. The first is Sam Spade created by Dashiell Hammett in the Maltese Falcon. The second is Philip Marlowe created by Raymond Chandler in The Big Sleep. Both these detectives came out about a decade apart with Spade being the first of the two. I often get these two mixed up. It doesn’t help that Humphry Bogart played both characters in the movies.
Back in 2014, a new Marlowe novel, The Black-Eyed Blonde came out, written by Benjamin Black, which is a pen-name for Booker Prize-winning novelist John Banville. I have to say, this book is every bit as good as any Marlowe story Chandler wrote. In fact, it’s as if Black channeled Raymond Chandler.
In this story, Marlowe is hired by Clare Cavendish to find her boyfriend who she saw on the street in San Francisco. Except, her boyfriend was declared dead two week prior. Marlowe sets out to figure out if the boyfriend is dead or alive and in general what’s going on. I don’t want to play spoiler so I’ll leave things there.
I figured out some of the mystery here, but not all of it, even though all the clues are there. Black does a masterful job of hiding them, many in plain sight. At times, I laughed out loud. I read passages to my writer wife because they were so well written. You can’t go wrong with The Black-Eyed Blonde. Five stars!