The Big Sleep
Raymond Chandler (Adult Fiction Mystery)
“It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.”
Philip Marlowe is thirty-eight, single, and makes a living as a private detective charging clients $25 per day plus expenses. It pays the rent. Then a case arrives involving a very wealthy General Guy Sternwood. The general is being blackmailed (again) and he wants Marlowe to handle the matter “personally”. Over the next five days, Marlowe becomes embroiled in pornography, gambling, missing persons, and murder. It’s just an average week in the life of Philip Marlowe.
The Big Sleep is a gritty, edgy crime novel where the skirts are tight, the brandy is served cold, and cigarette smoke permeates every square inch of a room. Chandler’s writing is sharp and crisp and the similes and metaphors fly around faster than bullets: “He sounded like a man who had slept well and didn’t owe too much money.” or “Her whole body shivered and her face fell apart like a bride’s pie crust.” Chandler wrote this book about fifty years before the introduction of “girl power” so readers shouldn’t be surprised at seeing women being objectified, marginalized, abused (they tend to get slapped around a LOT), and vilified. But it really wouldn’t be the same book if some blonde-haired Trixie kept pulling Marlowe out of tight fixes. Would it?
Chandler entertains us with a book that’s as humorous as it is dark. The only downside is his penchant for overly describing everything. True, we know exactly what a character looks like (down to his sock pattern) or how a room is laid out (as well as the color of the wallpaper), but the momentum of the story is dragged down by the weight of these excessive details. Still, this is a small price to pay considering Chandler gives us such gems as, “Neither of the two people in the room paid any attention to the way I came in, although only one of them was dead.” It’s good to be Philip Marlowe.
Reviewer’s Note: The version read was published in 2011 by Thinking Ink Media and should be avoided due to numerous editing errors found throughout the book.
*Book cover image attributed to www.amazon.com