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The high window by Raymond Chandler
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The high window (1942)

by Raymond Chandler

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Philip Marlowe (3)

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"The wind was quiet out here and the valley moonlight was so sharp that the black shadows looked as if they had been cut with an engraving tool."

Marlowe is tasked with tracking down and acquiring a stolen rare coin dubbed the Brasher Doubloon. Its owner, Mrs. Murdock, believes that her recently estranged daughter-in-law is the culprit. Unfortunately for Marlowe, there’s rarely ever an open and shut case and it isn’t long before he’s tied up in a web of deceit and murder.

I’m beginning to feel like there’s no such thing as a bad Marlowe story. While The High Window isn’t as quotable as The Big Sleep or Farewell, My Lovely, the case is just as interesting and the twists and turns in the story had me guessing right up to the end. It also doesn't hurt that the majority of the supporting cast are deplorable, shameless characters and while their actions affect others in ways they may not have intended, when they’re shown the error of their ways, they couldn't give a damn.

One of the things I really enjoyed was Marlowe’s insistence that several of the folks he comes across ooze noir stereotypes (the sexy femme fatale, the tough talking club owner complete with big bodyguard). It’s one thing to write these characters but it’s another thing to call attention to it; almost like breaking the fourth wall so to speak.

As many have pointed out, it’s not really because of the plot that you’re picking up a Chandler novel and I’m beginning to see why. Chandler writes Marlowe with such bravado, it’s like Marlowe thinks everyone is either constantly bluffing or just plain full of shit. He’s seemingly always a step ahead and he’s got more lines than a coke dealer.

The High Window has a satisfying conclusion and once again reinforces why Chandler is considered a master of the crime fiction genre. Onward to book four!

Also posted @ Every Read Thing ( )
  branimal | Apr 1, 2014 |
"All I knew about the people was that they were a Mrs Elizabeth Bright Murdock and family and that she wanted to hire a nice clean private detective who wouldn't drop cigar ashes on the floor and never carried more than one gun. And I knew she was the widow of an old coot with whiskers named Jasper Murdock who had made a lot of money helping out the community, and got his photograph in the Pasadena paper every year on his anniversary, with the years of his birth and death underneath, and the legend: His Life Was His Service."

Yes, we're back in Chandler territory, and Marlowe's taken on a new case. (Does anyone know if the choice of Marlowe for a name was significant?) Mark Billingham in his introduction to the 2005 Penguin edition comments that Chandler gave him a taste for dark and realistic crime fiction, where the solving of the puzzle is less important than character. I'm not sure about character, let alone plot - what Chandler delivered was style.

I finished The High Window about a week ago, and I've just had to read the back cover to remind myself what it was about. Although The High Window is perhaps weaker than his more well known works, I must confess that I've not entirely followed the logic of any of his plots. I seem to recall that one of his biggies, The Big Sleep or Farewell, My Lovely or possibly The Lady In the Lake famously has a character disappear inexplicably leaving a bit of a hole. I note from the introduction that The High Window was twice made into a film, once as 'Time To Kill' in 1943 and once as 'The Brasher Doubloon' in 1947, but neither was successful.

Regardless of plot Chandler is always satisfying to read; one reads him for the smart aleck one liners, the imagination inevitably superimposing Bogart on the author's original Marlowe, and the splendid similies ("Her hair was as artificial as a nightclub lobby"). Much alcohol is consumed, and much tobacco is smoked. There is a degree of strong arm and fisticuffs. The gentle reader calls from the sidelines 'No, don't give Marlowe your keys! Don't arrange to meet him later! You know it will end in tears!", but deaf to the reader's entreaties the characters hand over their keys, make appointments, and die. The very predictability is part of the satisfaction of reading these books.

The High Window's plot includes a Nutty Female. Nutty Females do turn up in Chandler's work from time to time, and I assume they are a reflection of popularization of psychoanalysis at the time. I think they are a bit of a flaw, but take them as part of the period setting.

So, while I definitely think that everyone should read at least one Chandler, this is not one that I would recommend.

And for realistic crime I would recommend the Martin Beck series starting with Roseanna.
  Oandthegang | Mar 19, 2014 |
At book three in this series it's getting harder to come up with new things to say about Chandler's Marlowe novels. Yes, I could offer up some of Chandler's clever similes or metaphors which change with each book, but I'm not going to do that. These novels are, in a word, excellent. Whether you read them for the writing, the often-cumbersome plots or the unforgettable characters, especially that of Philip Marlowe, considering that they were written around 70 years ago, the high quality of these books has remained steady so far. If you want to know about plot,I'm not bringing it out here; you can see what the book's about elsewhere.

Aside from Chandler's witty metaphors, very cool prose and his take on the sprawl that is Los Angeles (which I am absolutely fascinated by, probably more than anything else in these books) what I am beginning to appreciate more about these novels is in the way Chandler explores people. Getting to the whodunit and most especially the why is really a vehicle for exploring individual psyches, especially Marlowe's. He becomes much more of a damsel-in-distress rescuer in this book, and continues his moral duty of keeping his client shielded from any possible fallout, even though it might mean that he soils his integrity in the bargain. He continues to hold onto his principled self -- his twenty-five dollars a day plus expenses is all he wants -- he can't be bought off, despite the expectations of clients and crooks alike. He works hard to get not only to the truth, but also to the heart of just what it is about people that makes them tick. But it's not just Marlowe -- pretty much anyone who takes any role in Marlowe's investigations gets even the tiniest bit of psychological air time from his or her creator. It's these individual stories when combined that showcase the people who exist in Marlowe's city; his interactions with these people who help to define who Marlowe is. And isn't.

The High Window didn't feel as clunky or convoluted plotwise as its predecessors -- I am having so much fun with these novels and this one did not disappoint. ( )
  bcquinnsmom | Feb 10, 2014 |
Philip Marlow shall find a stolen item for the widow Mrs. Murdock, the Brasher Doubloon. He disappeared with Leslie Murdock, the daughter-in-law of Mrs. Murdock. A coin dealer named Mr. Morningstar called her if the coin is to sell. Mrs. Murdock believes that Leslie took the rare piece of gold to sell it. There is another private dick who wants to talk to Marlow and gives him his address. When Marlow has visited him he finds him death. The story went by with more murders and much deeper reasons than a gold coin.

Raymond Chandler was really a master who created a lot of great crime stories. The High Window is like his other novels written in the first person and narrative style. And again Raymond Chandler describes settings and characters very well. Sometimes I believe it is too much but behind each curtain could stand a killer, behind each desk could lay a murdered person and Philip Marlow has his eyes everywhere.

The High Window is wonderful to read. It’s a great novel. If I could I would give them six stars. ( )
  AlecBaker | Sep 19, 2013 |
Had to laugh when I found reviews saying nobody ever reads Chandler for his plot. It's probably true, at least once you know what you're getting into. There are parts of the books where I have no idea what's going on but I'm still hanging on because the way he writes is so amazing. I think I say this in every review of his books, though. This one had some awesome phrases in it -- the description of Marlowe as a "shop-soiled Galahad" particularly struck me, and "women who should be young but have faces like stale beer".

I actually found the character of Merle one of the most interesting things about this novel, though -- the attention paid to carefully building up her backstory and character. Structurally, I think this book is better than The Big Sleep and Farewell, My Lovely -- although in all of them I've been able to keep a better grip on the plot than I'd expected of myself.

I don't read Chandler to find out whodunnit, though. That's almost immaterial. ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
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Raymond Chandlerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kauffer, E. McKnightCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The house was on Dresden Avenue in the Oak Noll section of Pasadena, a big solid cool-looking house with burgundy brick walls, a terra cotta tile roof, and a white stone trim.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0394758269, Paperback)

A wealthy Pasadena widow with a mean streak, a missing daughter-in-law with a past, and a gold coin worth a small fortune—the elements don't quite add up until Marlowe discovers evidence of murder, rape, blackmail, and the worst kind of human exploitation.

"Raymond Chandler is a star of the first magnitude."-- Erle Stanley Gardner

"Raymond Chandler has given us a detective who is hard-boiled enough to be convincing . . . and that is no mean achievement." -- The New York Times

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:26:16 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Philip Marlowe, a private detective, searches for a priceless gold coin Mrs. Murdock suspects was stolen by a member of her family

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