Book Review: The Big Sleep

The Big Sleep was the first published Philip Marlowe stories. Marlowe is hired by General Sternwood to stop another blackmail attempt against for his youngest daughter, Carmen. Marlowe takes on the job and along the way tumbles into a blackmail racket, an illegal porn shop, a few murders, and the ever pressing question of what happened to Rusty Regan, the husband of Sternwood’s other daughter Vivian.

From there Marlowe has to navigate the corrupt world of the Sternwood girls, stop the blackmailer, and protecting the dying General Sternwood. As a mystery, the Big Sleep is top notch. The mystery grows more complex the deeper Marlowe gets into it. Marlowe’s world is packed with memorable characters that inhabit this gritty world.

And then there’s the writing, in the Big Sleep Chandler has a wonderful way with words. The book features quotes like this:

“I don’t mind if you don’t like my manners. They’re pretty bad. I grieve over them during the long winter evenings.”

“Such a lot of guns around town and so few brains. You’re the second guy I’ve met within hours who seems to think a gat in the hand means a world by the tail.”

“Neither of the two people in the room paid any attention to the way I came in, although only one of them was dead.”

“I don’t mind if you don’t like my manners. They’re pretty bad. I grieve over them during the long winter evenings.”

Fans who know Marlowe from the radio should be advised that the book is far edgier. It’s a world that includes a pornography-related plot and sexual references, though the book avoids graphic description However, the morally redeeming quality of the book is the character of Philip Marlowe, an honest detective living in a code of honor facing a corrupt world that runs from LA’s upper class to its underworld.

Rating: 5.0 out of 5.0 stars

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