Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Lawrence Osborne's Only To Sleep

In the spirit of reading updates of old classic characters (see my review of the latest Bond novel from a few days ago) I read Lawrence Osborne's Only To Sleep, a new Philip Marlowe novel. I like the idea of having old characters come back. Why not? The originals are there and wonderful, unsullied by it. I read Raymond Chandler in huge gulps in my early 20s.

Only To Sleep takes place mostly in Mexico, around resort towns in Baja but Marlowe does a lot of driving. Osborne was a reporter in Mexico in the early 1990s and captures the scenes beautifully. He clearly loves the place, and has an eye for detail. I also enjoyed the San Diego and environs references, including Julian, a small mountain town northeast of San Diego that deserves attention.  I don't believe I've ever seen it mentioned in a novel.

It's a first rate story, good mystery with a pace. Marlowe is retired in Mexico and is hired to look into possible insurance fraud. An older man with a young wife died in Mexico with a sizeable life insurance policy. The company likes Marlowe because he is fluent in Spanish and old enough to be inconspicuous. The twists keep coming.

Unlike the Bond novels, it moves forward so it is 1988 and Marlowe is 72 and feeling it. I found it is discordant to hear Philip Marlowe refer to Guns N' Roses and Tina Turner. I found it discordant that Marlowe was quite physically weak and walked with a cane, even if it was one with a sharp Japanese knife inside it. In short, it was a good hard-boiled novel but completely disconnected with the Marlowe I knew. It's like a different person entirely.


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