Thursday, 4 October 2012

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (3/5)

The back says: “Neither of the two people in the room paid any attention to the way I came in, although only one of them was dead.”

Los Angeles PI Philip Marlowe is working for the Sternwood family. Old man Sternwood, crippled and wheelchair-bound, is being given the squeeze by a blackmailer and he wants Marlowe to make the problem go away. But with Sternwood’s two wild, devil-may-care daughters prowling LA’s seedy backstreets, Marlowe’s got his work cut out – and that’s before he stumbles over the first corpse.

I say: If it weren’t for that damn 100 Classics Challenge and that damn Dorothy Zbornak of The Golden Girls (who was obsessed with detective stories) I would never have touched this novel, and could have gone on with my life having missed nothing.

Because, to me, this was nothing.

Or maybe just a tad ridiculous.

Characters like Marlowe are the reason I don’t read detective stories because they make it all seem so absurdly impossible to believe the outcome. How do they know all the things they know, and why don’t they ever show enough clues? Maybe I’m too thick to get it, but some of the plot here was too over the top.

Now, Marlowe himself was a rather decent guy – I liked him – but all the other scame across as caricatures. The way those Sternwood daughters behaved; all the gangsters and seedy characters; the silent but all-knowing butler; the dying father who knew more than he let on, etc. bored me to tears and I couldn’t wait to get to the end to rid myself of these people.

Ugh.

In all fairness, I don’t enjoy this type of literature, which is why I’ve given it a 3/5, because as far as detective stories goes I suppose it was alright. The writing was very old-timey, which I liked for the most part, and the f word was censured out, which took me by surprise. The slang became somewhat of a novelty, but what I couldn’t stand was the all similes.

“Like and undertaker dry-washing his hands” and “like a scarecrow’s empty pockets” are the only ones I can still remember, but they were sprinkled all over the place, much to my annoyance.

All in all, it was a short read that didn’t give me much pleasure or grief. It left me a bit meh – which is probably one of the worst thing a book can do.

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