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The Big Sleep: Book Review

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by Bryony Harrison (subscribe)
Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from
Published October 24th 2012
By Raymond Chandler
Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep
Raymond Chandler's 'The Big Sleep'

That sounds like it might grow up to be a dirty story.' A scandalous book of blackmail, murder and sex, The Big Sleep has grown up; in fact it's gotten dirty and already thrown its laundry in the pigsty.

Raymond Chandler's pulp fiction thriller, a detective novel set in the American depression, chucks out all inhibition along with its smutty underpants. Flat, stereotypical femme fatales whose lips 'glittered like knives' are part of the basic culture of noir. Most of the jailbait doesn't even have the luxury of a first name, merely referred to as the blonde, tall bird or Silver-Wig, who sounds more like a pirate than a woman from the 1930s. While confusing and often leaving the reader wondering who Marlowe is talking to, the fact that women are nothing more the troublesome objects with legs that 'seemed to be arranged to stare at' creates entertaining one liners perfectly concocted by Chandler.

However, with a seductive temptress hiding in every bed, the mystery is non-existent, and any red herring will fail to fool the reader. The murder is solved, but it seems utterly unimportant, with no triumph to be held. While Chandler may fall short with the mystery element, he impressively identifies the social issues that were facing America at that time. Using the Sternwood family to symbolise the growing corruption, he successfully exposes the criminal unity within the city of Los Angeles and the lack of co-operation amongst the constabulary force.

The criminal underground isn't just occupied by gangsters with guns, but also their angelically alluring devil-may-care sisters. There's Carmen, a promiscuous minor who is often slapped or hit by our would-be hero, and Vivian, the gambler, blackmailed by her boyfriend.

For those in search of a good detective crime novel, you shouldn't miss the opportunity to read this classic, and any fans of film noir will surely love the amoral scandals and sexual tension.
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Why? It's a classic good old crime novel
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