Several people recommended Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer series as the ones coming very close to Raymond Chandler's writing quality. I really liked the works of the latter, but his Philip Marlowe feels quite old and way too cynical in the latter novels. So does Ross Macdonald deliver? Yes, sort of; read on for the explanation.
If you read any noir mystery books from the real masters of the genre you know what to expect. Corrupt cops, a femme fatale, mobsters and their henchmen, big gunfights, a cynical hero with a heart of gold getting knocked out by a blow on his head - all of these and more are here. I cannot help comparing Lew Archer to Philip Marlowe as the letter is the sample against whom everything else is measured. Archer does not come as fleshed out as Marlowe, but this is understandable considering these are his initial stories. He does not use brilliant one-liners trademarked by Marlowe, but there are some gold nuggets in his dialog once in a while. He is also not as cynical as Marlowe and does not drink as much (I always wondered how Marlowe managed to keep his head relatively clear with the amount of drinking he did). Archer also gets his head hit a lot to the extent that I would wear a motorcycle helmet without taking it off in his place.
The writing quality is fairly good and once again I will cut the guy some slack as this is a collection of his first stories. The plots were complicated enough to keep me interested until the end.
My final rating is 3.5 stars rounded up. I have really high hopes for the series and would recommend any Raymond Chandler fan to look into it.