Fans of specific authors often bristle when someone else takes on a character or style. After all, it’s rare to best the originator. Black-Eyed Blonde by Benjamin Black is an exception. It’s a Raymond Chandler-style detective story (complete with Phillip Marlowe) and it’s true to the noir style and plots while being elegantly written and fast moving.
Marlowe is hired by a beautiful perfume heiress, Claire Cavendish, to find an ex-boyfriend, Nico Peterson. Peterson doesn’t strike Marlowe as Claire’s type, and as he investigates, his intuitions are confirmed. He uncovers a complicated circle of shady characters. There’s Claire’s loutish husband, her ne’er-do-well brother and coarse, overbearing mother. There are suspicious bartenders, club owners, and dangerous thugs. The case grows to include mistaken identity, both accidental and purposeful, as well as drugs and murder.
Black writes in Chandler’s style, without a hint of parody. It’s no surprise that he’s so accomplished; Black is the pen name of John Banville, the Booker Prize-winning author. If you are looking for a noir detective story, this one won’t disappoint.