Books »The Lady in the Lake

by Raymond Chandler (1944)

While I know the Raymond Chandler character Philip Marlowe well from movies (and I don’t care what people say – Elliot Gould was genius), The Lady in the Lake is actually my first time reading one of the novels. Set, as expected, in the streets of LA, this one also takes us to the tranquil vacation lakes surrounding the seedy town. Of course, they turn out to be just as deadly when our private eye is sent looking, simply enough, for a rich man’s missing wife.

Nothing is ever so simple though, in a snappy noir, so murder, villains, scandal, witty dialogue, and plot twists ensue. While I guessed the major plot twist far too soon (blame a healthy education in murder mysteries), like most noirs, the plot isn’t always the star of the show, it’s the long, often punch-in-the-jaw getting there that’s fun.

Some say this is one of Chandler’s weaker efforts, which only makes me excited to read more since I quite enjoyed it. Not as enjoyable, unfortunately, is the 1947 film adaptation which features a gimmicky first person perspective (all characters address the audience with exaggerated expressions) which wears off after a couple minutes. Strangely, they made it into a “Christmas” themed movie too – my guess is hoping for box office returns during the holidays. Yes, stick to the far more nuanced and clever book – even cranky Chandler took his name off the film (and he wrote it!).

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Posted on January 12, 2011

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