Ayo Onatade is an avid reader of crime and mystery fiction. She has been writing reviews, interviews and articles on the subject for the last 12 years; with an eclectic taste from historical to hardboiled, short stories and noir films
With Raymond Chandler being my all-time favourite crime writer I approached Benjamin Black’s The Black –Eyed Blonde with a certain amount of caution. Would it hold up to the sense of place and style of Chandler and if not why not?
The Black-Eyed Blonde is in some way’s a blast from the past. Set after The Long Goodbye and loosely including a plot from his last full-length work. Phillip Marlowe finds himself being persuaded to take on a missing person case. His client Mrs Cavendish wishes Marlowe to find a former lover of hers called Rico Peterson who has been missing for two years. But the case becomes even more mysterious as Marlowe tries to work out why Peterson is so important to his client. As more deaths occur Marlowe strives to find out the truth as he realises that he has taken on more than he bargained for.
Let’s be clear, Benjamin Black is not the first author to write about Raymond Chandler’s laconic private eye and he possibly won’t be the last. Fans will remember Robert B Parker’s Perchance to Dream. As pastiches go this is a pretty good one. The story is good and is as noir as one could have envisaged. Black has also managed to evoke that sense of place and dialogue that one has come to expect from a Raymond Chandler novel. Die-hard fans may not enjoy this latest incarnation of Chandler’s private eye and they may also find it a bit lacking. However, for me The Black-Eyed Blonde is certainly reminiscent of Chandler’s own work and the beauty of it all is that he manages to convey as easily as Chandler did the brutality of the Mean Streets of LA.
The Black-Eyed Blonde is dark, taut and nostalgic, just don’t get it mixed up with The Case of the Black-Eyed Blonde by Perry Mason.