(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Chandler’s third book, The High Window, tells a story of personal tyranny and the misuse of money and power. The novel begins in front of an old, redbrick home in Pasadena, California. It is summer and much warmer there, in the San Gabriel Valley, than it is over the hill in Hollywood, where Philip Marlowe lives.

Marlowe is in Pasadena at the request of the wealthy widow Elizabeth Bright Murdock, a drunken, domineering matron. She wants Marlowe to find a valuable coin, the Brasher Doubloon, that has disappeared from her safe. She asserts that her flamboyant daughter-in-law, the former Linda Conquest, a nightclub singer, stole the coin. Linda’s marriage to Elizabeth’s son, Leslie Murdock, has been faltering, and Linda has moved out of the Pasadena house and gone into hiding.

Elizabeth Murdock has a secretary, Merle Davis, who intrigues Marlowe. She is blond and could be beautiful, but she wears no makeup. Merle is afraid of men because she suffered sexual harassment at the hands of Horace Bright, her former employer and Elizabeth’s first husband. Marlowe feels attracted to Merle and protective of her. She gives him the names of Lois Magic, who was Linda’s former roommate, and Louis Vannier, Lois’s escort.

Leslie Murdock follows Marlowe to his office to find out why his mother hired a detective. His father was Horace Bright, who supposedly committed suicide when he lost all of his money in the stock market crash of 1929. Leslie is tied to his mother’s purse strings, and he has rebelled by marrying a nightclub singer and running up twelve thousand dollars worth of gambling debts at Alex Morny’s Idle Valley Club, a...

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(Masterpieces of American Literature)

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