Scottish crime-fictionist Denise Mina has demonstrated her versatility in recent years with modern fictional takes on historical dramas (Rizzio, Three Fires). In the vivid, crisply penned new tale, The Second Murderer (Pegasus Crime), she stretches her muscles still further, dispatching Raymond Chandler’s solitary Los Angeles gumshoe, Philip Marlowe, in search of Chrissie Montgomery, a naïve 22-year-old heiress gone missing after her engagement party.
Marlowe suspects Chrissie’s repugnant father—who comes from money “so old there was a rumour that some of it still had Moses’ teeth marks on it”—has employed him in hopes that he’ll fail, but at least keep a lid on this potentially sordid affair. Instead, our hero easily locates his quarry, but suspects she may have good reason for wishing not to be returned to the bosom of her family. Marlowe’s alternatives there are limited by the presence of another sleuth, lovely Anne Riordan (from Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely), who’s been put on the same trail. And they’re further complicated when he discovers Chrissie standing over a freshly slain Nazi painter said to have perished months before in Europe.
Class stratifications, violence against women, and corruption of all flavors figure into this pre-World War II story, jockeying for elbow room against Mina’s sun-baked atmospherics and Marlowe’s signature witty patter. It’s not quite Chandler, but it will do in a pinch. And it’s much more faithful to the source material than was Joe Ide’s modernized Marlowe yarn, The Goodbye Coast (2022). ◊