Cecilia's Reviews > The Big Sleep

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
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's review
Oct 11, 2007

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Recommended for: mystery fans
Read in January, 2006

I now see why everyone compares most mystery writers to Raymond Chandler. He’s not only the best, but considering that The Big Sleep was written in 1939, he was one of the first. The novel begins like most detective novels of today…setting the stage for the crime, the criminals, and the intrigue. Philip Marlowe is the detective of all detectives….cool and suave and always knowing just what to say at just the right time…and mostly dark, mysterious and possibly up to no good. What struck me first was Chandler’s OVERLOWING detail. I mean, for a mystery, this book had all of the elaboration of a fine work of literary fiction. He describes EVERYTHING…colors, clothes, ambiance of a room, etc. At first, I was distracted by this…not knowing what to make of it since I don’t usually see this in mysteries. But, soon I got used to it and was able to focuses freely on the plot. And plot is the plot FUN! I mean that a tad sarcastically…since it’s pretty darn complicated. It revolves around Marlowe working for General Sternwood, a wealthy, wheelchair-bound old man whose daughters who enjoy spending his money and living the good life, to say the least. First, Marlowe’s assignment is just to clear up a seemingly “minor” dispute involving one of Sternwood’s daughters, but once uncovers more about the family and their dealings, Marlowe soon finds himself in more trouble than he knows what to do with. The plot was hard to follow at times, but the writing is so solid and the characters so alive that I was able to keep myself entertained until I was able to put things together again. At the most, I would only be lost for a page or two… Concerning the “Noir” or “hard-boiled” elements…well, I feel those stem mostly from Marlowe’s character here. As I said, Marlowe always seems to have an air of “danger” about him…we never actually find out what it is (at least not in this book) but it always seems to be hanging over him. That plus the story having a dark, moody tone all the way through make this one of the quintessential “noir” thrillers. The movie The Big Sleep makes the book seem uncomplicated in comparison. Trying to condense a very convoluted plot into a two hour film must have been nearly impossible and with the way the movie flows (or doesn’t flow), it’s easy to see director Howard Hawks had trouble as well. Not one of my favorite films but one of my most enjoyable and FUN reading experiences of late….

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