Book Review: The Black-Eyed Blonde

The Black-Eyed Blonde: A Philip Marlowe Novel - Benjamin Black

Book: The Black-Eyed Blonde


Author: Benjamin Black


Genre: Hard-Boiled Detective/Gangster/Noir/Police Novel


Summary: "It was one of those Tuesday afternoons in summer when you wonder if the earth has stopped revolving. The telephone on my desk had the air of something that knows it's being watched. Cars trickled past in the street below the dusty window of my office, and a few of the good folks of our fair city ambled along the sidewalk, men in hats, mostly, going nowhere." So begins The Black-Eyed Blonde, a new novel featuring Philip Marlowe - yes, that Philip Marlowe. Channeling Raymond Chandler, Benjamin Black has brought Marlowe back to life for a new adventure on the mean streets of Bay City, California. It is the early 1950s, Marlowe is as restless and lonely as ever, and business is a little slow. Then a new client is shown in: young, beautiful, and expensively dressed, she wants Marlowe to find her former lover, a man named Nico Peterson. Marlowe sets off on his search, but almost immediately discovers that Peterson's disappearance is merely the first in a series of bewildering events. Soon he is tangling with one of Bay City's richest families and developing a singular appreciation for how far they will go to protect their fortune. Only Benjamin Black, a modern master of the genre, could write a new Philip Marlowe novel that has all of the panache and charm of the originals while delivering a story that is as sharp and fresh as today's best crime fiction. -Henry Holt, 2014.


I have a bit of a complicated relationship with this book. While the cover and the title intrigued me, the plot summary didn't grab me. I walked away from it initially and I caved in the next time I saw it.


I never read a hard-boiled, 1950s private detective novel before and now I know why. The story is a classic detective novel of that period - a pretty, mysterious woman appears on the private detective's doorstep with a case for him: a lover of hers has disappeared and she wants the detective to find him. In the process of his investigation, the detective finds himself in more danger than he initially thought.


While the story itself was interesting, and that's what kept me reading, the style of writing was not my cup of tea. There was nothing wrong with it in the sense of grammar. I just wasn't the right audience. I can't get into the detective's soliloquizing and the melancholy of the world the characters live in sunk too deeply into me. It's your stereotypical hard-boiled detective novel - think Guys and Dolls, Double Indemnity, and The Maltese Falcon. It takes place in the 1950s so expect to get all of the good and bad that comes with that period.


I also read that Philip Marlowe was the main character in detective novels written by Raymond Chandler. So, this is a novel that gets the same sort of treatment that Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle where modern authors write "new cases" for the classic detectives. Since I've never read a Raymond Chandler novel, I can't speak to that point. It's simply something I want to warn prospective readers because I'm a canon snob and I refuse to read the modern "Sherlock Holmes cases" and "Hercule Poirot cases" that are written today. If anyone's a canon snob for Raymond Chandler novels, you'll want to skip this one.


Overall, it's a good detective story. I'm just not the right person to appreciate this novel.


I give The Black-Eyed Blonde a B.




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