The Little Sister
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The Little Sister (Philip Marlowe #5)

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  6,347 ratings  ·  280 reviews
Chandler's 5th novel has Philip Marlowe going to Hollywood as he explores the underworld of glitter capital, trying to find a sweet young thing's missing brother.
Paperback, 256 pages
Published August 12th 1988 by Vintage Books (first published 1949)
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The Big Sleep by Raymond ChandlerThe Maltese Falcon by Dashiell HammettThe Long Goodbye by Raymond ChandlerFarewell, My Lovely by Raymond ChandlerThe Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain
Best Noir
16th out of 493 books — 510 voters
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg LarssonAnd Then There Were None by Agatha ChristieAngels & Demons by Dan BrownRebecca by Daphne du MaurierIn Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Best Crime & Mystery Books
322nd out of 4,334 books — 9,949 voters


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Community Reviews

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Dan Schwent
A woman from a small Kansas town hires Philip Marlowe to find her missing brother. What Marlowe finds is himself ensnared in a web of drugs, blackmail, and murder...

As I've said many times, noir fiction and I go together like a bottle of cheap vodka and nightmares about being chased by coyotes. The Little Sister by the esteemed Raymond Chandler is no exception.

It may be because it's been a few months since I've read one of Raymond Chandler's oddly poetic noir masterpieces but I liked The Little...more
Evgeny
The book begins with an exciting chase scene: Philip Marlowe tries to catch a fly... Actually, I am kidding. The PI, not having any case to work on is so bored that he starts hunting aforementioned fly. When a girl shows up on his door he takes her case for a measly sum of $20. The girl came from Nowhere, Kansas (the actual name of the place is Manhattan - and I do not mean NYC location) and she wants to locate her brother who supposedly lives somewhere in LA. The routine investigation leads Mar...more
Brandon
“Wonderful what Hollywood will do to a nobody. It will make a radiant glamour queen out of a drab little wench who ought to be ironing a truck driver’s shirts, a he-man hero with shining eyes and brilliant smile reeking of sexual charm out of some overgrown kid who was meant to go to work with a lunchbox. Out of a Texas car hop with the literacy of a character in a comic strip it will make an international courtesan, married six times to six millionaires and so blasé and decadent at the end of i...more
AC
This one is very hard to rate. So let's call it 4.5 stars. There are flaws. The plot really *is* too complex, as Marlowe himself admits. And at times, especially in the first half, there is an even deeper problem. Marlowe is (always has been and always will be; see Chandler's letter to D.J. Ibberson, dated April 19, 1951) 38, but the author himself at the time of writing was already 61 -- and, quite obviously, none too happy about it. That discrepancy of voice is sometimes too apparent. On the o...more
notgettingenough
My, was Raymond in a foul mood when he wrote this. Fine by me as I was in one when I read it.

I see this book's copped a bit on goodreads. Unfair. Totally unfair. If you get the drift, the guy's got the shits and he is looking at life from the wrong end of the telescope, he does such a good job of that.

There are two types of people in the world. The ones for whom money is everything: they need to get as much of it as possible, take it willynilly from whereever they can, make sure nobody else gets...more
Sketchbook
Written in the late '40s when RC was sick of Hollywood and
depressed about his wife's health (she was 17 years older),
RC was fretful and feeling more insolent than usual. So he used
Movieland as his setting. The titular sister, from the midwest,
lands in SoCal looking for her missing brother as, we later
learn, they both want to blackmail their Almost Famous Sis
who's in Pix. From real life RC borrows a scandal involving
mobster Bugsy Siegel who was allowed out of prison for a few
days to visit his...more
Nicholas Karpuk
Dec 08, 2008 Nicholas Karpuk rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Dames, Broads, Down on their luck joes, flat foots, PIs, hired goons
It was either the third or the fourth time a dame, in a fit of histrionics kissed Philip Marlowe that I became slightly exasperated.

Don't get me wrong, Raymond Chandler is a good writer, his prose is packed with cleverness to the point of overflowing, the dialogue snaps, and everything has the cool sleazy vibe of old time Hollywood.

But even one of the characters points out how baffling it is that ladies just seem to want to lock lips with sadsack detective Philip Marlowe.

Otherwise, the writing...more
Cathy DuPont
Aug 31, 2012 Cathy DuPont rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: noir fans, hard boiled fans
Turn left; now go 3.15 miles south and make a U-turn back .34 miles; go right 5.34 miles; and on and on. That was how this hard-boiled noir classic read for me from about half way through to the end. When I thought I had everything in its right place, who did what to whom and why, everything got jumbled again and I’m back to square one and not sure who did what in the last 20 pages I read. It was a very complex novel but an excellent example of my favorite genre from one of my favorite writers a...more
David
The point of reading a Philip Marlowe novel is to spend time with Philip Marlowe, one of the great creations in all of American literature, not to spend time with a good mystery--Raymond Chandler was not much of a mystery writer, truth be told. In reading a Marlowe novel, then, the question, bizarrely, becomes this: How much does the mystery interfere with the novel? In the case of The Little Sister, the answer, happily, is not too much. The book is never in any real danger of sinking under the...more
Ed
Rambling plot sometimes hard to follow, BUT the P.I. Marlowe bittersweet voice teems throughout. Famous metaphors work well. The wrap-up is pretty decent. This book skewers the Hollywood glitterati.
Tristram
Marlowe Is Back Again, but in a Rather Bad Mood

In 1949, after a spell of almost six years, Raymond Chandler had his hero Philip Marlowe re-enter the stage in The Little Sister, a weird case of multiple blackmailing and mob murder. It all starts in a seemingly harmless way when Orfamay Quest, a rather prim-looking, mousy young woman asks him to find out the whereabouts of her brother Orrin. Marlowe, in a strange way fascinated and simultaneously revolted by the demure and holier-than-thou Orfamay...more
Ian Tregillis
Hmm. Maybe 3.5 for this one?

Definitely 4 for the sentence level craft. Wonderful lines like, "The room was full of silence like a fallen cake." And the first chapter is perhaps the best first chapter of the Marlowe novels I've read thusfar. This one is snappier and funnier than some of the others (though they all have their funny moments, thanks to Marlowe's quick sardonic wit). Say what one must about his characterization, but Chandler knew how to string words together.

As for that characteriza...more
Harry
Now here's an odd duck.

I got a collection of Raymond Chandler novels from the library recently, not expecting anything more than a couple of fun detective stories to read over Thanksgiving. For the first novel I read, The Lady in the Lake, that's pretty much what I got. Private eye Philip Marlowe is tasked to find a millionaire's missing wife, stumbles onto a conspiracy that gets quite a few people killed, and at the end of the story he gets the chance to prove he's the smartest man in the room,...more
Nikki
Raymond Chandler's writing is still the most amazing stuff I've ever seen, don't get me wrong. This book seemed a little more worn than the others -- or maybe I'm getting more used to it. I still love the voice he's given to Marlowe, and I still think his work is probably worth reading no matter what, but this one didn't fill me with glee. It's easy to read, it's atmospheric, the actual writing is good, but... the plot is incoherent (no surprises there) and the characters, particularly the women...more
Andy
Meh, you would think that Raymond Chandler would rip out his rapier wit when he finally tackled the subject of Phillip Marlowe in Hollywood, but there's something stale and cliched about the whole affair. A great opportunity to tear up the fakest city on the planet, and Chandler gets pussy on us. Boo!
Jessica
Reading this makes me wonder what Chandler would have thought of our current surveillance culture and the utter pervasiveness of cameras. A bit confusing in spots as this is a larger-than-normal cast for Marlowe to interrogate, but clever in the execution.
Nancy Oakes
I love this series. Absolutely. If modern American crime writers could write like this, my tbr pile would be beyond overflowing.

If you want a little more about this book than what I've written here, you can click here and read about it at my reading journal. Otherwise, read on.

Like all of the Chandler novels so far, The Little Sister has a plot that is once again overly convoluted and overly complex, but Chandler is in rare form here, having Marlowe spill his guts about the city, his job, the...more
Jan C
Sep 17, 2011 Jan C rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of noir
I haven't read any Raymond Chandler for a while. I do have a book of people paying homage to Chandler and Marlowe, Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe: A Centennial Celebration for his centennial celebration.

I remember going through a big Chandler faze - read 'em all. Don't remember if I read this one, but I probably did. Also read a critical biography. Don't recall the name or author. But this was about 30 years ago.

So I looked forward to reading The Little Sister - I had a Robert Mitchum voice i...more
Joe
This, the fifth of Raymond Chandler's novels, is a novel that in some ways invites readers not to like it as much as Chandler's other stories. It is nothign to do with the writing style, which is up to the expected Chandler standards. Rather, it is an emotional reaction to the leading female character, Orfamay Quest. She rankes among the least pleasant of Chandler's characters, though her unpleasnt nature is central to the theme of the book.

Throughout chandler's novels Philip Marlowe displays tw...more
Richard
"Good night, amigo. I wear black because I am beautiful and wicked--- and lost."

I stood up. She leaned back and a pulse beat in her throat. She was exquisite, she was dark, she was deadly. Utterly beyond the moral laws of this or any world I could imagine. And nothing would touch her, not even the law. i>
____

This is the weakest Marlowe book that I have read to date. It has all the elements of a good, pulpy, shoot-em-in-the-kneecaps noir, but the elements refused... to do... something. What is
...more
lisa
The Little Sister by Raymond Chandler is the fifth novel in the series featuring hardboiled private detective Philip Marlowe. It seems that I read one Marlowe novel a year, so this is my book for 2013. What I will remember most about The Little Sister is my sense that this is the “odd” one.

The story begins with Marlowe in his office. He obviously doesn’t have a case or anything to do, so his focus is on a blue bottle fly. Marlowe watches the fly, waiting for his chance, and when it finally arri...more
Nick Jones
Raymond Chandler was the most respected of the old American thriller writers...and maybe the most respectable. The Penguin editions of his work used to have a quotation from Auden praising the novels for being more than crime...and wasn’t Sartre a fan? Philip Marlowe as existential hero, or something...although I’ve never been sure what that means. The Little Sister has the convoluted private detective plot we should expect; typically for Chandler, Marlowe investigates one case, events pull him...more
Michael
What seems like an easy case of finding a missing person turns out spiral out of control for Private Investigator Philip Marlowe, leading him into a world full of gangsters, movie scarlets and dead bodies. While The Little Sister is not Raymond Chandler’s strongest piece of work, it is a great addition to the series, with Marlowe been witty and awesome as always. Marlowe is on the hunt for Orfamay Quest’s (yes Orfamay) missing brother Orrin; the Quest family is from Manhattan, Kansas a small tow...more
Damond
I love Philip Marlowe stories, whether on the page or the screen. One of my favorite film adaptations, while maybe not necessarily one of the best, is the James Garner vehicle simply titled "Marlowe." In it you can see the beginnings of what would eventually become "The Rockford Files." That movie is based on this Marlowe mystery, though set in present day of the late 1960s.

The structure of the film follows the book quite closely. Marlowe has accepted a case for a young woman from Manhattan, Kan...more
Dave
I like the way Raymond Chandler writes--his books have an easy flow, and every so often you run into a great simile, like "The smell of old dust hung in the air as flat and stale as a football interview," or "She jerked away from me like a startled fawn might, if I had a startled fawn and it jerked away from me." If you just surrender to the flow, you can overlook his ridiculous characterizations of women, and the great unwieldiness of his plots.

I read two summaries of the plot after I'd finish...more
M. Milner
Savage, cynical and Hollywood to the core, Raymond Chandler's The Little Sister is one of his more underrated books. When a guy goes missing in the outskirts of LA, his sister hires Marlowe to track him down. Before long, Marlowe's sucked into the underbelly of Hollywood: drugs, gangsters, tabloid photographers and blackmailers. This is a short but intense read, straddling the line between outright cynicism of the movie industry (something Chandler knew well) and a dark sense of humor, poking fu...more
Dave
Another Chandler masterpiece.
an absolutely convoluted mystery- though slightly less than others, with the dame, the body, and the blackmail set up but not all in that order.
who is who, and what is happening starts to slowly unravel for the reader, and Marlowe is only half a step ahead. great characters and a quick pace. Marlowe is a bit cheekier in this book, but close to his old self like in High Window. What is not to like? if this was set in any big city it would be as good- or any era. Chand...more
Jake Jaqua
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Michael A
This is better. In fact, it's miles better than the previous two books. You'll still find the same kind of story and writing style here as used in previous books, but everything is more on the level of Farewell, My Lovely. More importantly, though, I think the intervening time between this and the last book gave him a bitter, self-reflective edge that makes the book a lot more interesting to read.

See, this book had been written after several difficult years working for Hollywood. By the time of...more
Nathan
Sep 23, 2007 Nathan rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Pulp fiction fans who want to see where it all started.
Shelves: fiction
Another great Marlowe book from Raymond Chandler. I had to read this for a class on detective fiction once in school. Yes, I took a class on detective fiction. Sounds easy, right? Well, possibly more than any other class I've ever taken, that class taught me how dumb I really am. The Little Sister was one of a handful of books I seriously underestimated while reading that semester.

NC
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Raymond Thornton Chandler was an American novelist and screenwriter.

In 1932, at age forty-four, Raymond Chandler decided to become a detective fiction writer after losing his job as an oil company executive during the Depression. His first short story, "Blackmailers Don't Shoot", was published in 1933 in Black Mask, a popular pulp magazine. His first novel, The Big Sleep, was published in 1939. In...more
More about Raymond Chandler...
The Big Sleep The Long Goodbye Farewell, My Lovely The Lady in the Lake The High Window

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“I hung up. It was a good start, but it didn’t go far enough. I ought to have locked the door and hidden under the desk.” 27 likes
“She smelled the way the Taj Mahal looks by moonlight.” 16 likes
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