Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Big Sleep
Private investigator Philip Marlowe is called to the sprawling mansion of the incapacitated General Sternwood. He tells Marlowe that he is being blackmailed by a purveyor of rare books named Arthur Gwynn Geiger. Geiger is apparently involved with the General's nymphomaniac daughter Carmen. Marlowe tells the general that he will try to persuade Geiger to stop. On the way out, Vivian Reagan, the General's other daughter queries Marlowe about the nature of his visit. She is under the impression that he is looking for her ex-husband, Sean "Rusty" Reagan who had disappeared a month ago. He visits Geiger's bookshop, where he sees that the assistant, Agnes, knows absolutely nothing about rare books. After trailing a customer who visits the back room of the store after passing a signal, Marlowe follows him, and finds that the bookstore is just a front for a pornography racket. Marlowe follows Geiger from his store to his house where he waits outside. He then hears gunshots and a girl screaming. He breaks his way into the house and deduces by the décor that Geiger is a homosexual. He finds Geiger dead on the floor in front of a camera, and Carmen, nude and drugged with laudanum. Marlowe searches the camera to find that the negative has been stolen. He takes Carmen home, but doesn't call the police. He returns to the crime scene to find that the body has disappeared.
The next morning he is telephoned by Bernie Ohls, a policeman, who tells him that the Sternwood's chauffeur, Owen Taylor, has been found dead. He apparently drove off the pier into the harbour and drowned, but the doctor finds that the cause of death was a blow to the back of the head. Marlowe visits the bookstore again, and finds that the dirty books are being relocated to the premises of Joe Brody, a friend of Agnes. Marlowe goes to his office, to find Vivian waiting for him. She tells him that an anonymous person is blackmailing her for the nude pictures of Carmen. Marlowe visits the crime scene again, to find Carmen looking for the pictures. They are interupted by Eddie Mars, a gangster who runs a local casino. He informs them he was Geiger's landlord and was looking for the rent.
He visits Joe Brody, who he believes found the photos the previous night. Brody admits to seeing Owen Taylor drive off the pier, but denies being the murderer. Marlowe takes the photos from Brody, but then Carmen arrives. She is wild with excitement and shoots at Joe Brody but only wounds him. Marlowe gives her the pictures and tells her to go home. Another caller arrives and shoots Brody dead before he can open the door. Marlowe runs after him, and he identifies himself as Carol Lundgren, Geiger's lover. Carol apparently shot Brody because he believed Brody has killed Geiger. He was the one who had moved Geigers body to another room. Marlowe hands him over to the police.
Marlowe visits the missing persons bureau and discovers that Reagan apparently ran away with Mona Mars, Eddie Mars' wife. He is called to Eddie Mars' club, where Mars tries to bribe him into giving up the case. He sees Vivian winning a large amount of money in Roulette. Marlowe later realises that this is all an act to make him believe that Mars is not involved with Vivian, and is blackmailing her. When he goes home, he finds a nude Carmen in his bed. He throws her out.
Some days later he meets a man named Harry Jones, who wants to sell some information to him. Marlowe agrees, and discovers that Mona Mars is being held at a certain location by Eddie Mars' hitman, Canino, and that she never ran off with Reagan. Jones asks Marlowe to meet him at Jones' office at night with the money. Marlowe goes to the appointment, and hears Canino talking to Jones through a doorway. Canino makes Jones tell him where Agnes, who has the information is staying. Jones lies to him and Canino poisons him with cyanide. Marlowe visits Agnes, who has been involved with three men who are now all dead, who gives him Mona's location.
On the way to the safe house, Marlowe's car has a flat tyre, so he visits a mechanic. The mechanic is actually a front for Eddie Mars, and Marlowe is knocked unconcious and brought to the house. When he wakes, he sees Mona Mars, who frees him after he says the famous line:
- "You know what Canino will do? beat my teeth out and kick me in the stomach for mumbling"
Canino comes back and a gunfight ensures. Canino is killed and Marlowe goes to the police who let him go. Marlowe visits General Sternwood the next day, who thanks him and hands him his fee. On the way out, Carmen asks Marlowe to teach her how to shoot. Marlowe takes her to an oil field. He gives her a gun and sets up some cans on a platform. As he walks back to her, Carmen tries to shoot him and then has an epiletic fit. Marlowe had loaded the gun with blanks. Marlowe visits Vivian and tells her the real story. Reagan had thrown Carmen out of his bed, just like Marlowe. Carmen had asked Reagan to teach her how to shoot, and she shot him dead. She told Vivian, who then asked Eddie Mars to cover it up, but then he tried to blackmail her. Marlowe promises not to go the police as long as Carmen is taken away to an institution. The novel ends as it began, with Marlowe at the steps of the Sternwood's house.
Phillips, G. (2000). Creatures of Darkness: Raymond Chandler, Detective Fiction, and Film Noir. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-9042-8
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