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This was a rather odd Marlowe novel. Originally published in Spanish, you could almost say this was an alternate universe Marlowe. Things were familiar, but at the same time, slightly different.

In September of 1956, newspaperman Charlie Morton gets Marlowe to unofficially investigate the suicide of Yensid Andress, a well known and liked literary agent in Hollywood.  The suicide note says something about bankruptcy. Marlowe had once had Andress for a client. The story  of the suicide was buried deep in the newspapers and Morton smelled a rat. Few people, for such a well thought of man, attended the funeral. There were a couple of thugs there who seemed out of place though.

As the investigation begins, Lt. Nulty tells Marlowe, and Morton on a different occasions, that it wasn’t a suicide, but he had orders.  Marlowe also learns that the gun, still in the dead man’s hand, had the safety on.

One of Andress’ clients was Raymond Chandler and he becomes one of the suspects. Marlowe knows Chandler because the writer meets with him every time he begins a novel about the fictional Philip Marlowe. Marlowe himself seems amused by it all. While reading the most recent novel, he thinks, “The things Chandler thought up were impossible-his detective would never have been able to solve a mystery in real life.”

Andress’ partner in the literary agency was Velma Valento, formerly Mrs. Helen  Grayle. Or was she just a glorified secretary worming her way into his life, as the agent’s ex-wife claimed. It was murder, she says. But she’s also a beneficiary on the insurance claim and if murder can be proved, it would be paid out.

A good little mystery story and, as I said, maybe an alternate universe.

One thing that will take getting used to(at least it did for me) is the POV switches. At the beginning, Marlowe’s point of view is second person. Halfway down the second page, it switches to third person, then ten pages later, it jumps to first person. It does that change a few more times and Morton’s appearances are third person, both during Marlowe’s first person and third person sections. It can get a little confusing.

I don’t know anything about translating fron another language, so I don’t know if that has to do with the translation, done by Deborah Bergman, or whether it was written like that in spanish.

If you can deal with that, and I did, it’s worth checking out.

Hiber Conteris was a political prisoner in Uruguay from 1976 to 1985. He wrote four novels, three plays, and a collection of short stories while in prison. One assumes this is one of them.