Lawrence Osborne – Only to Sleep

Lawrence Osborne – Only to Sleep

It’s 1988 and Philip Marlowe is already 72 years old and retired. But when an insurance asks for his help to investigate the death of a certain Donald Zinn, his curiosity is aroused and he accepts the job. After talking to the widow – young and beautiful and hardly mourning – he travels to Mexico to follow the last traces of the rich American. He soon finds out that there are some pieces about his death which do not really make sense and then he happens to find the man alive and kicking. But Zinn isn’t stupid, he knows how to get money and how to get rid of Marlowe. A scavenger hunt starts across Mexico.

Lawrence Osborne, who could already win me as a loyal reader with his former novels “Beautiful Animals” and “The Forgiven”, has done a great job in his Philip Marlowe novel. I liked Raymond Chandler’s hard boiled crime novels about the investigator and it is a risk to copy such a great writer. Yet, Osborne succeeded in creating exactly the mood that one finds in the old Marlowe novels and he placed the novel convincingly in the late 1980s. The title already is an homage to Chandler’s greatest novel and you can feel that Osborne has a lot of respect for his idol.

The novel itself has everything it needs: a femme fatale who seems to shift easily from one role into the other, a treacherous couple, a fierce environment where bribery reigns and money easily floats between the informant and the investigator. Some unexpected twists and turns made the plot move at a high pace, but most of all, it is the atmosphere that made it a great enjoyment to read. Even though it set in 1988, you can still feel the old Marlowe who acts as if nothing had changed since the 1930s and actually much that happens in Mexico could have happened decades before in exactly the same way. For me, Osborne did a great job and his Marlowe is in no way inferior to Chandler’s.