Philip Marlowe rousted from his bed, by 'Clyde Umney, the lawyer', finds himself dispatched to meet the San Diego train, to follow a melancholy redhead; armed with a general description and his fees been paid up front, courtesy of a snobby blonde secretary.
It doesn't take Marlowe long to discover that the redheads in trouble, and the ever chivalrous Marlowe gives her a helping hand, as he try's to figure out why he's been hired to follow her, and why she's in a jam. As he digs into the case Marlowe uncovers a labyrinth of blackmailers, a body that moves, bitter rich old men, an arrogant PI, a gigolo, a psychopath, a racketeer, decent policemen and disaffected low life's. Bad girls and one-nightstands, he gets the Snobby blonde with the wining line, 'what are you doing tonight? And don't tell me you've got a date with four sailors again?'
The novel leaves you wondering how Marlowe ever makes a living when he spends most of his time either giving money back or refusing it.
It's a wonderfully distilled story, sharp and to the point. Although not his greatest work Chandler still gives you the usual superb characterisations, dialogue, wit and style, providing a very lucid feeling of America mid-twentieths century.