A movie starlet with a gangster boyfriend and a pair of siblings with a shared secret lure Marlowe into the less than glamorous and more than a little dangerous world of Hollywood fame. Chandler's first foray into the industry that dominates the company town that is Los Angeles.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful: More than a Crime Novelist, September 15, 2002 Reviewer: DAVID BRYSON from Glossop, Derbyshire United Kingdom The latest in a long series of visits to LA had me refreshing my memory of one of my favourite novelists. As a young man I knew the Philip Marlowe books nearly by heart before I ever set foot in the city they put on the literary map. I have always thought that Chandler counts as literature not just as crime fiction. He was a professed admirer of the ultra-craftsman Flaubert, and it shows in the way he works at every sentence, indeed every word. He was English and as far as I know unrelated to the 'real' LA Chandlers (he attended the same school as P G Wodehouse, if you can believe it). He maintained that 'the American language' can say anything and in The Simple Art of Murder he took a brilliant potshot at the Agatha Christie school of English crime fiction , all tight-lipped butlers polishing the georgian silver and respectful upper-middles gathered to hear the amateur master-sleuth analyse over 5 or 6 pages which of them dunnit. His power of creating atmosphere is phenomenal, his dialogue is legendary, and for me The Little Sister is the best of the 7 Marlowes. It's at the crest of the hill, before he started to lose concentration in The Long Goodbye and lost just about everything in the sad Playback. I can still feel the heavy heat at the start of the book, and the dialogue is the best he ever did. Is there any other instance of anyone silencing Marlowe with an answer the way the beat-up hotel dick does when Marlowe tells him he is going up to room such-and-such and the hotel dick says 'Am I stopping you?'. And I cherish the bit about the same character tucking his gun into his waistband 'in an emergency he could probably have got it out in less than a minute'. I can't even yet follow the plot, but actually I have never been able to follow any Chandler plot, though I suspect the author himself lost his way in this one. It's maybe the first sign of the decline that set in next -- Marlowe is beginning to feel old and tired and he is probably speaking for more than himself. The plot is really neither here nor there. The only fully developed character is Marlowe himself, but Mavis Weld comes over well, the little sister herself is a memorable grotesque and see what you make of Dolores Gonzalez. The other major character is Los Angeles itself, which fascinates me as it obviously fascinated its adopted son Chandler. Half a century and more on from the time of writing I can still get the feel of Chandler's LA.