The Black-Eyed Blonde: A Philip Marlowe Novel
304 pages; Henry Holt and Co.
Most of us know that Benjamin Black is the mystery nom de plume of Booker Prize-winner John Banville. In his latest whodunit, however, he channels the master of hardboiled detective stories, Raymond Chandler, by resurrecting his most famous character, Philip Marlowe. Set in grimy 1950s Southern California, the story begins with a dame who—like Black/Banville—is more than she seems. Mrs. Claire Cavendish arrives in Marlowe's office with a few familiar distress calls—a missing former beau, a husband with his own secrets—but things take a deliciously twisted turn when Marlowe discovers that the missing man, wannabe Hollywood agent Nico Peterson, is dead (unless, of course, he's not) which, despite her innocent act, Mrs. Cavendish knows full well. Operating just this side of the law, Marlowe pokes at the underbelly of the rich until the rich poke back, and then some. With nods to Chandler's The Long Goodbye—and his penchant for similes: "An empty house has a way of swallowing sounds, like a dry creek sucking down water" [13]—Black's masterful pastiche is part homage to the king of noir and part dark-chocolate literary goodie. Gobble it down in one night.
— Jordan Foster