Walter Brackett

Created by Derek Marlowe

WALTER BRACKETT is a British eye, a lonely ex-pat middle-aged widower not getting any younger, down on his luck and a long, long way from home in Derek Marlowe’s 1974 standalone classic, Somebody’s Sister.


You’re soaking in it. If Chandler seems too upbeat for you, and Hammett just a tad too bippetty-boppitty-boo, you may dig this one.

Brackett’s your typical downbeat gumshoe, a widower operating a slowly failing agency in San Francisco. The cops don’t like him and his former partner, Kemble, is in a wheelchair in a rest home. Brackett dutifully visits every week.

It’s upon returning from one of those weekly visits that Brackett finds the cops waiting–evidently a fourteen-year-old who was killed in a traffic accident on the Golden Gate Bridge had his business card on her. The girl, it turns out, was a hooker, a junkie and once upon a time, a potential client. He’d turned her down, but slipped her a few bucks for a coffee and a burger.

Already curious, Brackett readily accepts an invitation from the only witness to the “accident” to come see him at his hotel, only to discover that the witness has been murdered.

It’s a good, solid story, a haunting and clever tale well told, with several intriguing twists, and Brackett is an appealingly hard-boiled character, not exactly likablebut sympathetic, and admorably tough when it comes to the crunch, a character I really wouldn’t have minded reading more about..

Sadly, the author chose not to make Brackett into as series character.


An British playwright, novelist, screenwriter and painter, Derek Marlowe (his real name!) was probably best known for the LeCarre-esque spy novel Dandy in Aspic (1964). Perhaps following in Brackett’s footsteps, her emigrated to California (Los Angeles, though, not San Francisco) in the late eighties, where he wrote several scripts for television (including an episode of Murder She Wrote. Unfortunately, he developed leukaemia, and died of a brain haemorrhage in 1996 after a liver transplant.


  • Somebody’s Sister is an attempt by a British author to write an American hard-boiled private-eye novel — and quite a successful attempt it is… The book is well plotted, and just when the reader thinks he knows what is really going on, he encounters another unexpected twist.”
    — Marcia Muller, in 1001 Midnights
  • “Derek Marlowe, of the Dandy in Aspic and other truffles, has now written a bruising thriller in the genre of that other Marlowe (Chandler’s) or Sam Spade about Brackett who is as bitter as bile… This is enormously exciting and enigmatic at the same time and written with a tough sophistication which is hard to beat.”
    — Kirkus Reviews



  • One and Done
    Some Great Private Eyes Who’ve Appeared in Only One Novel


  • September 8, 2023
    The Bottom Line: This lonely ex-pat Brit turned San Francisco eye trudges through one of the most downbeat standalones in the genre. For those who think Chandler’s too upbeat. Highly recommended.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

Leave a Reply