Raymond Chandler is the quintessential sleuth novelist. He created a genre that didn’t previously exist, and his work inspired classic detective stories and Hollywood films alike. (Picture Humphrey Bogart in a fedora and trench coat, smoking a cigaret and talking to a desperately beautiful woman in neglige – you’ve got the right image.) The first of Chandler’s detective novels, The Big Sleep was written in 1939 and captures the post-prohibition era in Las Angeles.
The story follows Philip Marlowe, private investigator. He finds himself in the service of an elderly oil tycoon with two wild daughters. His sleuthing brings him into the middle of an intricate web of deceit, jealousy, pornography, racketeering, and intrigue. The plot is complicated and at times confusing, as each chapter seems to bring a new character or two. The mystery you think is solved half-way through the book continues to unfold in ways you don’t expect.
The book is fast-paced and entertaining, with lots of great conversations, detailed descriptions, and surprising developments. It’s a classic.