cover image Perchance to Dream

Perchance to Dream

Robert B. Parker. Putnam Publishing Group, $19.95 (271pp) ISBN 978-0-399-13580-4

Parker, author of the Spenser novels, has made this ``sequel to Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep '' a stunning, drop-dead success. Private eye Philip Marlowe spins a yarn of greed, madness and death with the cool-eyed cynicism (and good-guy core) that made him the classic hardboiled dick. The era is post-WW II (``GI mortgages''), possibly early '50s (``cha cha cha''), the L.A. dream beginning to sour. Psychotic Carmen Sternwood is missing from an expensive sanatorium. After sultry Vivian has enlisted suave gangster Eddie Mars to locate her sister, the family butler, Norris, hires Marlowe for the same purpose. Sanatorium head Dr. Bonsentir stonewalls Marlowe's queries by using some heavy political clout, but further probing leads to a kinky billionaire who is practically untouchable. Marlowe is beaten up, a chopped-up body is found and an ex-inmate of the asylum dies ``accidentally'' before the PI uncovers a water-rights scam involving millions. Parker's effort goes beyond pastiche: he uses flashbacks from The Big Sleep daringly and seamlessly, and his terse style (a cop asks for the time of death: ``Any idea when yet?'') is flawlessly in Chandler's footsteps. This is dazzling. (Jan.)