I’m not a big Raymond Chandler fan, but everytime I listen to a not-so-good book, I strive to try something new. And in this case, I thought something classic would do me good. Hence Chandler, circa 1939.
The Big Sleep was Chandler’s first novel featuring detective Philip Marlowe. This is told from Marlowe’s perspective; he speaks in the first person and narrates to us everything as he sees it, and then some. I imagine that Marlowe is the typical detective of the 1930’s – dapper, sardonic with a dry, acerbic wit. The ladies like him, and he likes them in a cool-headed sort of a way, as in, he keep his wits about him. He drawls, and some of that drawling dialog is pretty swashbuckling and a little sexist – machismo of the time, I imagine. Marlowe is street-smart, skeptical and cynical. He makes a good detective.
The novel starts off with Marlowe being summoned to General Sternwood’s large and wealthy home. Sternwood has been contacted by a man called Geiger. Geiger is attempting to collect gambling debts, which he says have been incurred by Sternwood’s younger daughter Carmen. Now Sternwood wants Marlowe to get to the bottom of things and actually figure out who this Geiger character is and what he has on Carmen.
Attached to this mystery are several other mysteries like why the Sternwood girls (there are two – Carmen and Vivian) are always in and around gambling houses, and the mysterious disappearance of Vivan’s husband Rusty Regan. Marlowe’s sleuthing uncovers several surprising facts.
The book moves through the many events pretty fast. There is a lot happening too, because Marlowe tends to get about – he is not the stay-home-and-think type of detective. It does feel dated, like a Bond of old. There is a lot of emphasis on description and atmosphere and you get a good feel for the characters. Eventually this boils down to a neat little story and Chandler connects up the links very believably. Even so, I can’t say I am a fan. This is too much action and too little of an actual mystery to suit my taste.
I did like the narrator. Goulding’s warm, timber-y voice suited the character, and brought interest to the story. I would listen to him again.