Monday, May 25, 2020

Review: The Big Sleep by Ramond Chandler

I recently posted my review of THE BIG SLEEP on my library's Facebook page:

Raymond Chandler’s THE BIG SLEEP is one of the BBC’s ‘100 novels that shaped our world’ and as I have been a crime fiction fan since reading Enid Blyton, I really should have read this before. However, Lockdown has pushed me to read it and I am glad that I did.

This is Chandler’s first full-length novel, and introduces the wise-cracking gumshoe/shamus/PI Philip Marlowe and the mean streets of Los Angeles. Published in 1939, it is said the past is a different country...well so at times is the language. I read whilst not understanding many words at times, such is the difference in vernacular and slang, and yet, it is as if I have seen a [black and white] movie such is the vivid nature and descriptive beauty of the writing.

The plot, a combination of two of Chandler’s earlier short stories, revolves around the wealthy Sternwood family, who have made their money through oil (like the Ewing family in ‘Dallas’ but even more dysfunctional). The ailing patriarch, the General, hires Marlowe to investigate what appears to be a blackmail attempt concerning his younger daughter. This investigation leads Marlow into a web of blackmail, jealousy, grifters, sleazy hotels and murders and then when he settles that case, he takes it on himself to solve another related case – the disappearance of one of the other Sternwoods. This culminates in a memorable confrontation in the pouring rain. And a meeting with a woman “so platinumed that her hair shone like a silver fruit bowl”.

THE BIG SLEEP contains some wince-inducing misogyny and homophobia nonetheless it is well worth a read just to see how far we have come, what Hollywood was like eighty years ago, and to meet Philip Marlowe, an honourable man who mostly does the right thing.

Monday, May 04, 2020

Review: Agent Zaiba Investigates: The Missing Diamonds by Annabelle Sami, illustrated by Daniela Sosa

I recently posted my review of AGENT ZAIBA INVESTIGATES: THE MISSING DIAMONDS on my library's Facebook page:

AGENT ZAIBA INVESTIGATES: THE MISSING DIAMONDS, by Annabelle Sami and illustrated by Daniela Sosa, is the first book in a new series and introduces Zaiba, an aspiring detective, and her two sidekicks: her best friend Poppy and younger (half) brother Ali.

The story all takes place in the Royal Star Hotel where Zaiba’s cousin Sam and fiancé Tanvir are having their Mehndi party.

Zaiba, in the best tradition of her hero Eden Lockett - a successful writer of detective stories based on events in her own life – is tasked with identifying the mysterious celebrity who is staying at the hotel. The female celebrity is staying with a small dog who has an expensively bejewelled collar. When first the dog goes missing and then the collar, it is up to Zaiba and her team to find both, solve the mystery and save the day!

I really enjoyed this book. There’s lots of action and use of initiative. All the characters have their individual strengths though Zaiba is on a bit of a learning curve to take notice of her friends’ suggestions at times. Alongside the text there are full-page and incidental illustrations dotted throughout.

Zaiba gets on well with her step-mum Jessica whom she calls mum but there is a mystery about the loss of her birth mum which I hope is revealed over the series. Zaiba feels close to her mum via the Eden Lockett books which she inherited as her mum had written little notes in the margins.

The second book is out in July and I look forward to it.