ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Review of The Lady in the Lake

Updated on April 2, 2020
satomko profile image

Seth Tomko is a writer, college-level educator, and adventurer.

Cover of the dust jacket of Raymond Chandler's The Lady in the Lake (1943), published by Alfred A. Knopf, Jacket drawn by Norman Reeves.
Cover of the dust jacket of Raymond Chandler's The Lady in the Lake (1943), published by Alfred A. Knopf, Jacket drawn by Norman Reeves. | Source

Raymond Chandler’s Continuing Noir Mysteries

Philip Marlowe, hired to track down one man’s missing wife, discovers a web of murder, extortion, and police corruption that extends beyond Bay City, California.

Degrace Kingsley, fearing more for his own reputation than for the safety of his wife, hires Private Investigator Philip Marlowe to uncover her whereabouts after receiving conflicting reports about her. Marlowe also learns that a woman named Murial Chess, wife of the handyman who looks after the Kingsley’s cabin at Little Fawn Lake, disappeared around the same time only to turn up dead and hidden in the lake. Suspicious of the coincidence, Marlowe begins investigating the disappearances of both women much to the chagrin of Mr. Kingsley, the Bay City police (especially a ruthless detective named Degarmo), and a doctor of ill repute who’s wife also died under mysterious circumstances several years ago.

White Knight, Dark World

As with Chandler’s other novels one of the best sources of tension comes from Marlowe, who does his best to act with integrity in a world where greed, corruption, and apathy all conspire to disintegrate the moral core of every character. Marlowe comes across as jaded, cold-blooded, and detached because he needs to be in order to do his job. In his unguarded moments, though, readers see a man tormented by dreams about the drowned woman, who realizes the emptiness of his personal life, and understands the necessity of loneliness in his line of work even while wishing for more meaningful interpersonal relationships (99, 155-6, 237). Nonetheless, Marlowe manages to deport himself with class and wit that other characters seem to lack all while making progress on several investigations.

In order to get anything done with his cases, though, Marlowe resorts to means that, while effective, are morally questionable. Feeding liquor to an alcoholic for information, breaking and entering, and not contacting the police after discovering a body are all ethically questionable to say the least (39-40, 76, 115). The readers ultimately side with Marlowe because his moral center remains untarnished despite being constantly warned off the cases, bribery attempts, and police brutality (124, 153-4, 173). In each case, Marlowe doesn’t rattle under the pressure. Chandler presents a world in which good and evil—black and white—are inseparably mixed, so readers side with Marlowe whose grey appears significantly less dark that those around him.

Raymond Chandler
Raymond Chandler

Technical Noir

An element that is both intriguing and frustrating to readers is the first person point of view. Everything is filtered through Marlowe’s perspective, yet the readers learn little about him directly. He proves his character through his deeds and his analysis of everything external rather than through long soliloquies about his private life and feelings. This development forces readers to pay close attention to not only the intricate details of the plot but also the many subtexts of dialogue and actions characters take to make up their own minds. In this way, Marlowe, too, is a mystery that unfolds alongside the criminal and social conspiracies of the novel.

Chandler also crafts an atmosphere that is distinctly 1940’s American West Coast in that there are direct references to the war effort, such as one man waiting for his enlistment papers to clear and the sentry on the dam at Puma Lake (175). The underlying dread about the war colors the way readers see many characters trying to escape the uncertainty about World War II through vacationing, drug use, identity theft, and occasionally murder.

The Lady in the Lake is a thrilling hard-boiled detective novel that reads at a fast pace in spite of the substantial amount of details to be had. By keeping all the information straight up through the revelatory climax Chandler proves himself once again to be the master of the form.


Chandler, Raymond. The Lady in the Lake. New York: Black Lizard/Vintage Crime, 1992.

© 2010 Seth Tomko


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • satomko profile imageAUTHOR

      Seth Tomko 

      23 months ago from Macon, GA

      Thank you, Gilbert. I recommend all of Raymond Chandler's books as great hardboiled detective stories and as American Literature.

    • rebelogilbert profile image

      Gilbert Arevalo 

      2 years ago from Hacienda Heights, California

      Thanks for your well written analysis of The Lady of the Lake. It sounds like a story I would like to read.

    • satomko profile imageAUTHOR

      Seth Tomko 

      7 years ago from Macon, GA

      Thank you, lions44. It is one of my favorites of Chandler's books too.

    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 

      7 years ago from the PNW

      Lady in the Lake is probably my favorite Chandler work. So glad I found your hub. Great job.

    • satomko profile imageAUTHOR

      Seth Tomko 

      9 years ago from Macon, GA

      Thanks for your comments, Huntgoddess. I should have been more specific, but all the citation I provide come from the Vintage Crime/Black Lizard edition I list as my source.

    • satomko profile imageAUTHOR

      Seth Tomko 

      9 years ago from Macon, GA

      No problem, dahoglund. I appreciate your hub and think it helps put the books in context.

    • Huntgoddess profile image


      9 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      Very nice review.

      You give page numbers, but without telling us which particular edition of the book they're from. That would be good to know.

      Other than that minor issue, this is a good article.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      9 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Good review. It has been a long time since I read this book and you pointed out things I did not notice or had forgotten. Thanks for the link to my hub. I'll put a link to this one in my hub.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)