A girl with the unlikely name of Orfamay Quest comes to Philip Marlowe’s office wanting him to find her brother Orrin. Marlowe’s rate is forty dollars a day plus expenses. He does it for twenty because the girl is nice, just off the bus from Manhattan. Kansas, not New York.
Marlowe doesn’t find Orrin. He finds Orrin’s old apartment, a guy with a bad toupee, and a dead building manager who apparently sold – and used quite a bit of – marijuana. The guy with the bad toupee invites him to meet at a hotel to explain what he’s up to. Only Marlowe arrives to find Hollywood starlet Mavis Weld leaving and the bald guy with an ice pick in his neck. Soon, Marlowe is tied up in the politics of the Hollywood movie business and subjected to the constant come ons of Dolores Gonzales, West’s friend. He almost takes her up on it.
This book is full of loathing for the movie industry. It was written after Raymond Chandler worked with Billy Wilder on the screenplay for Double Indemnity. He rather vocally complained about the experience. This book, however, is not Chandler’s best Marlowe. It’s better than the shaky The High Window, but not as solid as The Lady in the Lake. Of course, they can’t all be The Big Sleep, Farewell My Lovely, or The Long Goodbye. Still, it’s not bad. This one is probably the book Robert B. Parker referred back to when he wrote The Godwulf Manuscript. Marlowe’s snappy patter is almost dead-on Spenser before the cliches set in.