The High Window

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The High Window (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard)The High Window by Raymond Chandler
Published: 1942

I read The Lady in the Lake and Farewell, My Lovely in university and always meant to read more of Chandler’s work. The High Window was actually assigned reading in that same class, but I wasn’t able to get to it.

I really enjoyed the other two books, but that enjoyment mostly came out of the atmosphere and wit and imagery in the writing. The plots felt to me like something you hung on to and let drag you through the prose. They were a little too convoluted to really focus on or care too much about, so you just let it all wash over you. That view may be slightly influenced by the speed at which I went through them, though, so a revisit may be in order. I read them as part of an extra course in my last semester of school, and that course happened to involved an awful lot of reading, so I maybe didn’t give the books the time they deserved.

A check girl in peach-bloom Chinese pajamas came over to take my hat and disapprove of my clothes. She had eyes like strange sins.

The High Window had all the atmosphere and fantastic wit of the last books, but the plot felt a little more polished to me. Philip Marlowe, the noir detective from which most noir clichés originated, is hired to find a stolen Brasher Doubloon – a rare American coin. The old widow that hired him is certain it’s her son’s wife that has stolen it, and so Marlowe begins his investigation. Things quickly go pear-shaped, he gets mixed up in a few murders, and he finds himself in a much more complicated web of deceit.

I had a funny feeling as I saw the house disappear, as though I had written a poem and it was very good and I had lost it and would never remember it again.

Chandler’s writing is a joy. There are passages and lines in this book that stopped me dead and had me immediately re-reading. I’d forgotten how creative and vivid he could make even simple character descriptions. It’s writing for those who love clever language, and it comes across as effortless.

From 30 feet away she looked like a lot of class. From 10 feet away she looked like something made up to be seen from 30 feet away.

I’m really looking forward to reading more from Chandler. I’ll probably tackle his first book next, The Big Sleep.

2 thoughts on “The High Window

  1. Hamlette

    I just finished re-reading this one for the first time in almost 15 years, and yes! The plot on this one is much more stream-lined and follow-able. But again, it’s the writing style and dialog that delight me the most with Chandler — I sit there with a giant grin on my face when I read his books, and re-read every third or fourth line to savor it.

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