This is the third or fourth Raymond Chandler novel (out of seven) and it’s among the best of the ones I’ve read so far. My favorite is still The Lady in the Lake because the actual case is so good. But here, we just have Philip Marlowe being the best Philip Marlowe he knows how to be. His wisecracks are often hilarious and his tone is so dry.
The mystery itself is about a missing rare coin and eventually the death of a numismatist, who is collecting. So this novel has a lot of the kinds of things you see in mysteries of the detective consulting the expert and use that information to help solve the case.
So this novel is right up there in discussing an underworld or underground economy that as a kid I really thought would be more important in my life. How many of you found a coin from like 1950 in your dad’s change drawer and were like Yes! this is my ticket out of here! Or when the US started issuing the state quarters, and you were like….yes, yes…once I get all of these quarters I will be rich! Not to mention that the idea of rare coins being found and used to start a small fortune was such a go-to in film, television, and books. And of course, that’s not even mentioning rare stamps.
But more than anything coins have that appeal as both a MacGuffin, but also that entry point into rare underworld elements of both licit and illicit trade.