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July 18, 2016

The Big Sleep

The Big SleepThe Big Sleep

By: Raymond Chandler

When it comes to mystery novels, I am far from the most experienced reader. Usually there are too many characters and false leads for me to follow the story enjoyably, and by the end I wind up feeling more overwhelmed than satisfied. After hearing a podcast discussion, however, from ex-Mythbuster Adam Savage on the merits of Raymond Chandler, and feeling the need for a good summer read, I was compelled to give his first novel a try.

Now, a “hardboiled” detective novel is slightly different than a typical mystery. In a hardboiled story, the lead detective is cold, calculating, and untrusting. In a traditional story of a police officer investigating a thief, for example, the hardboiled detective is a third party who might question both sides and may, at times, have seemingly ambiguous motives. How does this make for a more interesting story? By introducing another lens to view the crime, the reader is left not knowing who to trust, being in much the same situation as the protagonist. In such a story, a meddling detective is just as likely to be eliminated by the rogue officer or the criminal. And even though their morals may be questionable (spending free time with an astounding amount of whiskey), we can always trust the hardboiled detective not to rest until justice has been administered—and they have been compensated. To my mind, this makes for a far more interesting story.

After hearing the recommendation, I started at the beginning of the series following detective Philip Marlowe with The Big Sleep. In the story, Marlowe is hired to look into a blackmailing, but there turns out to be more to the situation. Disappearances and murders unfold, and Marlowe can only trust himself as he proceeds. Even after the police deem the case solved, Marlowe pushes to uncover the true nature of the scenario. The novel was further popularized by the classic 1946 film noir featuring as Marlowe, the one and only Humphrey Bogart (who portrayed an equally famous hardboiled hero, Sam Spade, in The Maltese Falcon).

Did you read this book and enjoy it? You may like to know that Detective Marlowe appears in a series of novels, continuing with Farewell, My Lovely. Are you a fan of classic detective stories presented by James Cain or Dashiell Hammett? How about the more modern Robert B. Parker, Michael Connelly, or Haruki Murakami? Then in that case, you would certainly enjoy the works of Raymond Chandler.

Review By:  Joseph Wooley