The High Window, published in 1942, is Raymond Chandler’s third Philip Marlowe offering. This stand alone novel shows Chandler’s, as well as Marlowe’s, growth throughout the series.
On a hot day in Pasadena, wealthy widow Mrs. Elizabeth Bright Murdock hires Marlowe to find a missing rare old coin, the Brasher Doubloon. The coin belonged in her deceased husband’s collection. Mrs. Murdock insists it was stolen by her son’s wife, a former night club singer, Linda Conquest, who disappeared at the same time as the coin.
Mrs. Murdock spends her days on a chaise in the foliage filled sun room, obviously ruling her family with an iron fist. With a motley cast of characters including a fragile secretarial assistant, an effeminate son, a rich gambler and his philandering wife, uncooperative cops, and a man in a sand-colored coupe who seems to be tailing him, Marlowe soon finds himself immersed in a series of unexplained murders.
As the laconic P. I. attempts to put the puzzle pieces together, he finds himself helping those who need his help, whether they realize they need it or not. It is easy to see that Marlowe has grown as a private eye, and as a person. Over the last couple of books, he has matured, with a better understanding of who he is and what his role in life is supposed to be.
He enjoys the camaraderie of the underdog, exchanging snarky comments with those in the lesser stations of life, while holding contempt for those who mistreat others. Chandler understands the underbelly of society, and puts that understanding to good use with superb characterization. As always, he sets the tone of the story with his excellent use of atmosphere and vivid description.
His face-paced novels are entertaining page-turners that never disappoint the reader. Each scene is set to his satisfaction. He moves the story well, never allowing the pace to slacken, and provides loyal readers with another fully satisfied trip to the deep Raymond Chandler well.