He has a healthy does of cynicism that speaks loudly to middle aged men whose dreams and relationships have not lived up to what they thought they might. Marlow works hard for not enough pay, he enjoys companionship but struggles to find anything meaningful.
The books are loaded with wise cracking, twists, fantastic description, memorable characters, action and mystery. They are a great romp and just plain fun....Except this one.
This was the second book with Marlow and it felt like the last. Why? Well it has all the stuff that makes these stories great. Including two elements that I love about Chandlers books. One he has a fantastic way of describing things. "Her hair was the color of oil paintings" its loaded with unusual ways to (if you'll pardon the pun) paint a picture in your mind. His descriptions are vivid but not specific. I'm sure your image of a gold in oil paintings differs to mine as would, her hair had been messed with but not too much. You feel like your getting a solid image even though your doing a lot of the work.
The second thing is Marlow stories often start small. Something that doesn't seem to matter becomes larger, more complex and often drastically more dangerous. Its great storytelling. So where does the problem lies in Farewell my lovely?
Its not cynical, instead it feels bitter. He always has a mix of characters, good and bad. The happy and unhappy. This time though the characters feel bitter. The widow who is angry and more bitter than a truck full of lemons. The cop who just seems bitter from a life of watching people being horrible to each other to a point where apathy is stirred into his morning coffee and Marlow himself doesn't feel the cynic we connect to. Rather he feels jaded. At least once after dealing with people he describes himself as feeling dirty.
The other problem is the story itself. It starts with a villain who has no redeemable qualities mixed with Marlow walking into a situation that made no sense for him to get involved with. It dealt with a bar that used to be a white one which had become black and the murder of its manager. The police don't seem to care too much and I think Marlow's sarcasm aimed at the police for not doing much gets mistaken for bigotry. The thing is I don't think Marlow ever was a bigot. The problem stems from the fact this is a old book and a lot of racial slurs were used (but a lot of different communities) on a day to day basis. This doesn't excuse it in any way and I think it gets in the way of the story.
To kill a Mockingbird uses the language it does to highlight bigotry. It showcases it and it shows rather than tells. That has a much stronger impact than telling someone bigotry is bad. if you get a uncomfortable feeling from To kill a Mocking bird then good. Shows you are a human being. That book had a focus about social commentary. This one is a detective novel. The racial slurs don't improve the story and it doesn't add anything helpful or debatable to the situation. Yes part of the problem is reading a 1940's book with 2016 values but still I think this book would have been the better for it to leave the racial language out. Though honestly I feel these terms shouldn't be used at all by anyone regardless of ethnic background.
The story is still good, its still a Marlow mystery, but it just doesn't stand up as well against trouble is my business and my favorite Marlow story The Big Sleep.