I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
When a dying millionaire hires Philip Marlowe to handle the blackmailer of one of his two troublesome daughters, Marlowe finds himself involved with more than extortion. Kidnapping, pornography, seduction, and murder are just a few of the complications he gets caught up in.
OMG, how have I missed out on Raymond Chandler’s work for so long? From the very first sentence, I was hooked. The plot is pretty good, but where The Big Sleep excels is in characters and in atmosphere.
Philip Marlowe is the kind of guy you want to have on your side if there’s something not-quite-above-board happening in your life. Not a guy you would want to date, but definitely a guy who you hope you can afford when you need his skills.
I adored the dialog—Chandler had a real talent in that department. Marlowe is pitch perfect, letting the reader assess how much he knows and frustrating those that he is questioning/not answering. Working both sides of the law, friends with lawyers and with criminals, all of whom see him as a straight-shooter, he tries to be a decent guy. Decent or not, he’ll let something slide if it promises to complicate his life too much.
It is easy to see how works like The Big Sleep have influenced modern crime fiction. The almost-burnt-out investigator who is world weary and cynical is pretty standard, although the more interesting authors find a way to give the stereotype a new spin. The omnipresent rain, making the whole investigation into an endurance test. The moral ambiguity of “bad guys” who are actually pretty likeable and “good guys” who are pretty despicable. For me, a wonderful introduction to the hard-boiled genre and a darn good read besides.