Top critical review
Marlowe's Last Case
on February 1, 2003
Raymond Chandler's death in 1959 left the beginnings of this novel; thirty years later it was finished by Robert B. Parker. It does not seem to match Chandler's earlier work. Perhaps because it echoes these and other stories?
Some anachronisms jarred my reading. I can believe Linda driving a Fleetwood convertible in 1959 or 1969, but they were long obsolete by 1989. While scandals from nude photos were believable then, the weekly magazines and newspapers have inured us since the 1970s. Unless it involved an elected official, and maybe not even then. Marlowe seems to drive around without ever getting caught in traffic, too. Is LA like that? At 42, does his attitudes reflect other baby boomers? The story involves a gambling establishment outside the city limits. Would either the FBI or Calif pass up a chance to raid it since the 1960s? Wouldn't a casino in Nevada be more likely? The sun-drenched streets of pre-war Los Angeles ("the best trolley system in the country") have been long replaced by the smog and gloom of Big Oil's Freeways. "Roger Rabbit" treated this as background for a cartoon.
The square miles of land around LA were worthless because there was no trolley system there. Destroying the trolley system put people into cars. Now these distant lands became commercially valuable. Newspaper owners benefitted when they were developed. Even bigger forces were at work to bring in Government contracts, and factories from out or state. The northeast was drained to irrigate southern California. And all perfectly legal!
The ending is different from "The Big Sleep", and it seems more cynical to wrap it up with a 'deus ex machina' ending. TBS let the guilty walk because they were rich and powerful, and doesn't it still happen that way? Not just in LA? A better ending would find the suicided Larry Victor with a typed but unsigned confession, and the widow Valentine hospitalized for a nervous breakdown.