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The Big Sleep

A book by Raymond Chandler

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A Cut Above . . .

  • Nov 20, 2002
Though I'm not much of a detective fiction fan, I was drawn to try this one because I'd heard the names of Raymond Chandler, and Philip Marlowe, his creation, since I was a boy. A short, moody and convoluted tale of a tough-guy detective with a brain and real moxie, this one lives up to its hard boiled reputation.

Marlowe shows up at the Sternwood estate to undertake a quickie investigation into an apparent blackmail attempt (and, hopefully, to suppress the matter) at the behest of a dying old man who is clinging to life even as he angles to protect the two miscreant daughters of his twilight years. Both daughters are wild and careless of others, and prone to fall in with bad company . . . and to do even worse things. But Marlowe soon learns that the trail to the putative blackmailer he must follow leads inevitably from murder to murder, while the one person who means the most to old man Sternwood still hovers, missing, in the background. What happened to ex-bootlegger Rusty Regan and why did he take a powder when he had everything going for him including the beautiful elder daughter, and all the money she stood to inherit, of General Sternwood?

As Marlowe follows one trail into another, the deaths get messier, the cops get angrier and Marlowe approaches his own brush with mortality at the hands of a deadly gangland enforcer. The dark and decadent ambience of mid-twentieth century L.A. hangs like a sullen rain cloud over this entire tale as Marlowe fumbles about, trying to figure the real mystery behind the series of apparently coincidental killings he is faced with until, in the end, he confronts the big sleep that awaits us all.

This tale seemed rambling and almost accidental in its construction, just like real life, albeit with a tad more style. And it kept me hooked and satisfied, like a good drag on a newly lit cigarette in a noirish Bogart flick, right through to the end. I'm ready for another.


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Quick Tip by . May 01, 2011
Vintage crime fiction doesn't come any better than this.  'Nuff said. Raymond Chandler was at the top of his form (in my opinion) when he penned this tale. While the Phillip Marlowe tales that followed were wonderfully exquisite as well, they all paled in comparison to the original. Should be on the top 100 books to read in your lifetime.
review by . March 16, 2006
I'm no fan of mysteries, except perhaps the general mystery surrounding life, and I see crime enough in the every day without feeling the need to return to it for entertainment, and I'm not at all a fan of the hard-boiled detective with his hard-to-stomach arrogance (and what an apt adjective, this "hard-boiled," the golden yolk turned gray and flavorless when held over the flame too long). But I'm always a fan of a well written book, no matter what the genre. And Chandler's book qualifies.      …
review by . January 16, 2006
"The Big Sleep" was the first of Raymond Chandler's classic mystery novels featuring the character of Philip Marlowe, the clever detective portrayed by Humphrey Bogart in the 1946 film adaptation and Robert Mitchum in the 1978 adaptation. In this novel, Marlowe is hired by the old, crippled, and rich General Sternwood to find out who has blackmailed him. To Marlowe it seems simple enough - at first. Then he meets the General's two daughters: troublesome, cute little sister Carmen, and Vivian, the …
About the reviewer
Stuart W. Mirsky ()
Ranked #232
I'm a retired bureaucrat (having served, most recently, as an Assistant Commissioner in amunicipal agency in a major Northeastern American city). In 2002 I took an early retirement to pursue a lifelong … more
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About this book


"His thin, claw-like hands were folded loosely on the rug, purple-nailed. A few locks of dry white hair clung to his scalp, like wild flowers fighting for life on a bare rock." Published in 1939, when Raymond Chandler was 50, this is the first of the Philip Marlowe novels. Its bursts of sex, violence, and explosively direct prose changed detective fiction forever. "She was trouble. She was tall and rangy and strong-looking. Her hair was black and wiry and parted in the middle. She had a good mouth and a good chin. There was a sulky droop to her lips and the lower lip was full."
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ISBN-10: 0394758285
ISBN-13: 978-0394758282
Author: Raymond Chandler
Genre: Literature & Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers
Publisher: Vintage
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"A Cut Above . . ."
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