The Black-Eyed Blonde: A Philip Marlowe Novel

Written by Benjamin Black
Review by Tess Heckel

It’s 1950s California, and P.I. Philip Marlowe sits staring at a silent telephone in a quiet room, empty of eager clients. Soon the buzzer sounds and sultry the click of high heels reveals a beautiful, elegantly “coutured” blonde with deep black eyes. She wants him to “find someone”. Just his line, plus Marlowe knew he wouldn’t mind her company – in a professional way, of course. Although she was “Mrs.” Cavendish, she was seeking Nico Peterson, her lover, a denizen of the higher echelon of the Cahuilla Club, a bit out of reach for the Marlowes of the world. Details discussed and a few leads forthcoming and Marlowe was set to earn his twenty-five dollars a day plus expenses. Eager to begin, he was reluctant to see her leave, but he knew where to reach her. Good thing: she left without paying his retainer. After intial inquiries, the shock hit. Nico Peterson was dead, residing at Woodlawn. When he broke the news to her, the aftershock was worse. She already knew and apologized for not mentioning it, yet she saw Nico recently and he didn’t look dead at all.

A simple lost-and-found case eventually mushrooms into a puzzle of Russian dolls, and the cool, determined Marlowe is continually caught off guard. As the case climaxes, this tough, gentlemanly and well-read detective uncovers the worst and best aspects of Los Angeles’ hotbed of humanity. It’s a long and harrowing tale, this revival of the Philip Marlowe character. Not an easy task but the experienced author comes through on his first attempt to channel the spirit of Raymond Chandler’s unusual hero.