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El sueno eterno / The Big Sleep (13/20) (Spanish) Paperback – 30 Jun 2009
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Marlowe is summoned for a job at General Sternwood's opulent mansion. He first meets Carmen, the younger daughter who is a few cards short of a full deck. The General stays in his hothouse, looking like a near corpse. He tells Marlow about Rusty Regan, the older daughter's third husband, who suddenly disappeared last month. The real job is the gambling debts of Carmen. Before leaving, Marlowe meets Vivian, the spoiled and ruthless older daughter, who asks about his assignment. Chandler painted a picture of a powerful and corrupt family whose wealth far exceeds their judgment. Marlow represents the real people who must follow the whims of the ruling elite. Chandler used many words to describe the surroundings and background, more literary than Hammett or Gardner.
Marlowe began to investigate the man who had Carmen's gambling chits. Geiger's store rents "rare books". Marlowe followed Geiger to his house, then waited and watched. When he heard shots Marlowe broke in. Carmen was seated, nude with pin-point pupils. Geiger lay dead on the floor. Marlowe rescued Carmen and drove back in her Packard. Marlowe walked back to Geiger's house (not taxi driver with a memory for him). He found Geiger's body has disappeared! Next the Sternwood's chauffeur is found dead in a car that went into the ocean; was it murder? Marlowe shadows Geiger's store again, and learns more. The journey towards the truth continues.
Who killed Geiger? And Taylor the chauffeur? Gathering the facts allows the solution of the puzzle. Chapter 19 tells how the newspapers covered the stories. Chapter 25 has the news on a missing couple that Marlowe isn't looking for. Marlowe drives to this small town, locates the isolated house, and finds danger (Chapter 27). Marlowe explains his actions to General Sternwood, and gets another assignment (Chapter 30). The surprise ending occurs in Chapter 31. Little hints had been sprinkled throughout the book, but a reader would not pick them up. We see what we expect to see in most cases. The final chapter has the solution to Regan's disappearance. Marlowe orders the solution to the remaining problems and leaves, trusting his advice will be taken.
The moral of this story reminds me of "Love Story" where someone poor falls in love with someone rich, and the poor person comes to a bad end. As Owen Taylor did. Do the rich get away with murder, literally? Do the wealthy spend their time with drink, drugs, gambling, sex, and other thrills? Would higher taxes on estates and trusts prevent this problem? Note how the super rich use the underworld to solve problems that can't be delegated to lawyers.
I think this is his best novel. Chandler worked as an accountant and had an eye for details. For a faster paced style of murder mystery, read Erle Stanley Gardner.