This is the book that introduced readers to Private Detective Philip Marlowe, who lives and operates in 1940s Los Angeles.
Marlowe is hired by the elderly and ill General Sternwood, who is being blackmailed, and wants Marlowe to make the problem go away. Marlowe accepts the job but soon finds that nothing is what it seems. Also complicating matters are Sternwood’s two wild daughters, and the missing husband of one of them.
Marlowe delves into a seedy underworld, where he discovers corruption and cover ups, and lots of double crossings. He also finds himself in some dangerous situations in his quest to uncover the truth.
In truth, he is not an altogether likable character, but he does have his own moral code which he abides by. He cares little for other people, or for what they think of him and his occupation, and is something of a loner, unreadable to many of the other characters (and sometimes to the reader).
I enjoyed the novel, although the story – which galloped along at a fair old pace – almost took second place to Chandler’s wonderful turn of phrase. His descriptions sometimes bordered on poetic, despite the subjects he was describing.
The only slight complaint I would make is that the female characters in the book are almost caricature-like, but that did not really detract from my enjoyment.