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The Big Sleep

The Big Sleep Summary


Here you will find a The Big Sleep summary (Raymond Chandler's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.

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Last Updated: Monday 1 Jan, 2024

The Big Sleep Summary Overview

On a gloomy mid-October morning, Philip Marlowe, a hardened yet honorable private detective, is enlisted by an elderly, frail General Sternwood. His mission is to handle Arthur Gwynn Geiger, a likely bisexual man involved in pornography who is blackmailing the General with compromising photos of his daughter, Carmen Sternwood. Concurrently, Marlowe becomes embroiled in the mystery of the General's missing son-in-law, Rusty Regan, who was married to Vivian, Sternwood's elder daughter. Marlowe's investigation leads him to Geiger's storefront, a porn ring masquerading as an antiquarian bookstore. As he stakes out the establishment, he follows Geiger to his residence where Carmen also arrives. Events take a drastic turn when photos are taken of Carmen, causing her to scream. Three gunshots are heard from inside Geiger's house, and Marlowe discovers Geiger dead with Carmen, drugged and undressed, nearby. The murder of Geiger sets off a chain reaction resulting in the deaths of Owen Taylor, the Sternwoods' chauffeur who was infatuated with Carmen, and Joe Brody, who had plans of usurping Geiger's shady business. Marlowe later uncovers that the string of murders are interconnected, with Joe Brody being murdered by Carol Lundgren who was Geiger's lover, as he believed Brody had killed Geiger. As the case unravels, Marlowe also discovers that Rusty Regan was not involved in the blackmailing scheme as suspected, but was actually killed by Carmen. Despite the public exposure of the blackmail plot, Marlowe continues to dig deeper, leading him to Harry Jones, a man with crucial information about Mona Grant, another key player in this convoluted scenario. With Mona's help, Marlowe manages to escape the clutches of Eddie Mars's henchman, Lash Canino, and eventually uncovers the truth about Regan's demise. In the aftermath of the events, Marlowe pledges to keep the details of Regan's murder hidden from the General to protect him, and the narrative closes with Marlowe contemplating the concept of death.

chapter 1

Philip Marlowe, a private investigator, walks into the lavishly decorated Sternwood mansion in LA, at 11 a.m. on a cloudy day in mid-October. He's dressed in his best clothes for his appointment with the elderly oil tycoon, General Sternwood. Marlowe is enthralled by the mansion's rich adornments, particularly a stained-glass representation of a knight saving a nude dame tied to a tree, and a huge oil painting of a general with piercing black eyes. During his examination of the house, Marlowe is approached by a young, attractive woman in her early twenties. She flirts with him, to which he responds by introducing himself as "Doghouse Reilly." This woman is later revealed to be Carmen Sternwood, the General's younger daughter, known for her thumb-biting and giggling mannerisms. Carmen throws herself into Marlowe's arms saying, "You're cute…"—a phrase she commonly uses throughout the book. While Carmen is in Marlowe's arms, Norris, the Sternwoods' servant, walks in and announces that the General is ready to meet Marlowe. Marlowe cheekily asks Norris about Carmen's identity, suggesting, "You ought to wean her. She looks old enough."

chapter 2

Marlowe, the detective, joins the ailing General Sternwood in a greenhouse filled with dense, tropical plants and a stifling odor of wet orchids. The General, confined to his wheelchair, thrives in the oppressive heat much like the orchids. After sharing a drink and a quick chat about their backgrounds, they delve into the matters at hand. The General explains he's being blackmailed again. In his previous encounter with blackmail, he had to pay Joe Brody $5,000 to leave his youngest daughter, Carmen, alone. This time, Arthur Gwynn Geiger claims Carmen is in debt due to gambling, backed up by promissory notes signed by her. He's demanding $1,000 in return. Marlowe is shown these documents along with a business card indicating Geiger's occupation as a rare book dealer, which seems like a front. The General then brings up the disappearance of his son-in-law, Rusty Regan. Regan, an Irish revolutionary and immigrant, was married to the General's eldest daughter, Vivian, and had a special bond with the General, often spending time with him in the greenhouse. The discussion wraps up after this revelation. As Marlowe leaves the greenhouse, the butler, Norris, is waiting to pay him. He also informs Marlowe that Vivian Sternwood, referred to as "Mrs. Regan," is interested in meeting him as she's curious about why her father has hired a private investigator.

chapter 3

Marlowe steps into the lavish room of Mrs. Regan, where he encounters the beautiful Vivian. He can't help but tag her as "trouble" due to her intense black eyes and her flirtatious nature, similar to that of her sister but more mature. He can't help but note her tall and robust appearance, a stark contrast to her sibling. Their conversation revolves around Vivian's curiosity about her father's intentions. She's particularly interested in Marlowe's hiring and whether it's related to her husband, Rusty Regan's disappearance. Marlowe finds her prying nature somewhat suspicious. Vivian shares how her husband vanished one day without a word, his car later discovered in a private garage. Marlowe reassures her that his hiring has nothing to do with tracking down Regan, a fact he knew she wanted to hear. He departs rather abruptly, leaving the relationship with Mrs. Regan on uncertain terms. Once outside, Marlowe gazes over the Sternwoods' oilfields. The darkening sky and echoing thunder mirror his thoughts as he leaves the mansion. Pondering about Geiger and the ongoing case, he decides to visit the Hollywood Public Library to delve into rare books and first editions.

chapter 4

Marlowe heads to Geiger's bookstore to scrutinize the "business" that transpires there. He's greeted by an appealing woman clothed in a black dress who walks "with a certain something [not] often seen in bookstores." Marlowe quizzes her on some first editions he recently studied at the library, to gauge her expertise on rare books. She asserts the bookstore doesn't have what he's seeking. He informs her he'll linger for Geiger, suggesting that Geiger might be more knowledgeable about the books he's purportedly after. Marlowe settles in, observing and smoking. He spots a man coming and going from the back room, carrying a book-shaped parcel in a suspicious manner. As the man prepares to depart, Marlowe leaves his seat to tail him. The man attempts to elude Marlowe, but eventually opts to abandon the suspicious package he's carrying. Marlowe retrieves the discarded, wrapped book next to a tree. Throughout, distant thunder can be heard.

chapter 5

Marlowe's investigations endure as he tries to get Geiger's residential phone number from a booth, but his calls go unanswered. An idea strikes him to explore other bookstores near Geiger's. He stumbles upon a petite store and flashes his detective insignia to the lady at the counter. Repeating the queries he had presented at Geiger's shop, this woman proves knowledgeable, answering even his trick question like a true bookseller would. Marlowe shares how Geiger's store girl failed to answer these questions and missed his trick, using this contrast to coax a detailed description of Geiger from the woman. Exiting the bookstore, Marlowe unwraps the parcel he's been lugging around to discover its contents: "smut." The revelation sheds light on Geiger's scheme of operating a pornographic lending library at his store's rear, masquerading it as a rare bookstore.

chapter 6

Marlowe keeps an eye on Geiger's shop until a man, who matches Geiger's description, shows up. He trails Geiger to his home. While observing the house, Marlowe spots a white car arriving. A young lady steps out and heads into Geiger's residence. When she's inside, Marlowe verifies the car's details and discovers it's registered to Carmen Sternwood. Later, after surveilling the house through the night, Marlowe witnesses a flash from inside the house, followed by a scream that sounds more shocked than scared. As he approaches the house to investigate, he hears three gunshots and the sound of someone fleeing. Upon entering the house through a window, Marlowe finds two individuals inside: "Neither of the two people in the room paid any attention to the way I came in, although only one of them was dead."

chapter 7

Marlowe enters Geiger's home, taking in the lavish oriental decorations, silky furnishings, and the peculiar mix of odors, including ether. Carmen Sternwood is there, naked and seated on a chair, her eyes wild. She appears oblivious to her surroundings and the shooting, clearly under the influence of drugs, including ether. The motionless body of Geiger lies on the floor nearby. A hidden camera catches Marlowe's attention, cleverly concealed in a totem pole with a flash bulb attached. He connects the bright flash and Carmen's scream to the hidden camera. Unable to dress herself due to her drugged state, Marlowe helps Carmen get dressed. He notes, however, that the camera is missing its film plate, and it's not in Geiger's possession either. Even after a thorough search of the house, the plate is nowhere to be found. He does, however, discover a coded ledger bound in blue leather. Taking the ledger with him, Marlowe ushers Carmen into her car and drives her home.

chapter 8

Upon reaching the Sternwood estate, Marlowe enquires about Mrs. Regan and discovers she isn't present. The General is caught in slumber, which Marlowe appreciates. Norris, the house butler, takes Carmen and even offers Marlowe a taxi, but Marlowe declines, intent on leaving no evidence of his visit to the Sternwoods that night. Opting to tread the rain-soaked pavements, he heads back to Geiger's place. On entering Geiger's house again, he observes the absence of two silk strips from the wall and that Geiger's body is no longer there. He undertakes a thorough search of the house but fails to locate the body. He stumbles upon a locked room, which he unlocks with Geiger's keys. The room contrasts with the rest of the house, appearing more masculine in Marlowe's view. Marlowe understands that the person who concealed the body wanted to make it seem like Geiger had disappeared rather than been killed. He surmises that it wasn't the killer who hid the body, but someone else. The murderer, apprehensive that Carmen might have spotted him, left in a hurry. Marlowe concludes that he's fine with the concealed body as it affords him time to decide if he can keep Carmen Sternwood's name out of the previous night's events. After his contemplations, Marlowe attempts to decipher the code in the notebook he has brought. He only manages to deduce that it's a coded list, possibly of clients, with an extensive number of entries, around four hundred. That night, he returns home, slightly intoxicated, and surrenders to a sleep filled with remnants of the past night's events.

chapter 9

Marlowe wakes under the brightness of the morning sun, a stark contrast from the previous gloomy days. His head throbs from a hangover and he thirsts for a drink. His day begins with a phone call from Bernie Ohls, the lead investigator for the District Attorney. Ohls had been the one to introduce Marlowe to General Sternwood. The call is about a disturbing discovery: a Buick car submerged in the Pacific Ocean, believed to have driven off the Lido fishing pier. It's a chilling sight, made worse by the presence of a corpse inside the vehicle.

chapter 10

Marlowe returns to Geiger's bookstore, informing the alluring blonde employee that his previous visit was a ruse; he actually needs to speak with Geiger himself. He reveals that he is "in the business too," which unsettles her. She nervously insists that Geiger is absent, inviting Marlowe to return the next day. Before he can retort, a young man briefly opens the store's back door. Marlowe catches a glimpse of bustling activity in the back room, realizing that Geiger's illicit stock is being relocated. Leaving the bookstore, Marlowe hops into a taxi and tails a black truck departing from Geiger's premises. The truck leads him to an apartment complex. Once there, he scrutinizes the names on the mailboxes and recognizes one - "Joseph Brody," a man who had once extorted General Sternwood for $5,000. Seeking confirmation, Marlowe queries the man offloading the truck at the garage about the destination of the goods. Unsurprisingly, they're destined for Brody. Armed with this knowledge, Marlowe heads back downtown to his office, where a client is awaiting him.

chapter 11

Marlowe's new visitor is Vivian Sternwood. She acknowledges her awareness of Owen Taylor's fate and confesses that he was smitten with her sister, Carmen. Marlowe informs her about Taylor's criminal background, testing her reaction. She nonchalantly remarks that Taylor "didn't know the right people. That's all a police record means in this rotten crime-ridden country." Contrary to what might be expected, Vivian isn't there to speak about Taylor. Rather, she is being blackmailed. She had received a letter containing a nude photo of Carmen. A lady called later demanding $5,000 for the return of the remaining photos and negatives. Once Vivian's story is told, Marlowe questions her about her whereabouts the previous night. She says she was at Eddie Mars's Cypress Club and denies knowing Taylor took her car. Marlowe hints to Vivian that he might assist her, but refrains from explaining his plan or his reasoning. She flirts with him, expressing that she's fond of him and plans to secure the $5,000 from Eddie Mars. She reveals that Mona Mars, Eddie's wife, was the one who ran away with Rusty Regan, Vivian's husband. She cheekily pushes Marlowe to confess whether he's looking for Regan, but he denies it. The flirtatious conversation continues until Marlowe shows he won't be manipulated by Vivian. She exits on a sour note. Afterwards, Marlowe talks to Ohls, who maintains the uncertainty of whether Taylor's death was suicide or murder. Ohls verifies that everyone was home at the Sternwood's the previous night, except for Mrs. Regan, who was at Cypress Club, as confirmed by a young acquaintance of Ohls working at the club's gambling tables. Marlowe collects his previously towed car and confirms that no news of Geiger's death has been published. He decides to revisit Geiger's cryptic notebook.

chapter 12

Marlowe revisits Geiger's home, finding Carmen Sternwood present. The place seems more unsettling in the daylight: "all this in the daytime had a stealthy nastiness." Carmen inquires if Marlowe is a cop, to which he explains that he's actually her father's friend. He questions Carmen about Geiger's murder, suggesting Joe Brody as the perpetrator. She reacts affirmatively, agreeing to Marlowe's suspicion. As Marlowe probes further, Carmen reverts back to her usual self: naive, playful, and coquettishly mean. Carmen informs Marlowe that her sister, Vivian, revealed his true identity to her: that he's a private investigator named Philip Marlowe, not "Reilly". Marlowe informs Carmen that the photograph she had been looking for is missing. He once again questions her about Brody, asking if she genuinely thinks he's the murderer. She nods in agreement. Suddenly, Carmen expresses a desire to leave just as they hear a car pulling into the driveway. Carmen panics. As someone proceeds to open the front door, a man walks in and finds them both.

chapter 13

Eddie Mars walks into Geiger's house where Marlowe attempts to convince him that he and Carmen were only there to collect a book. Mars, however, is not convinced. He lets Carmen go but wants to have a chat with Marlowe, hinting at his two henchmen outside ready to obey his commands. Carmen flees. Mars senses something amiss and spots Geiger's blood. Despite Marlowe's casual response, Mars grows suspicious and demands to know his identity. Marlowe reveals he's a detective and Carmen is his client, entangled in Geiger's blackmail scheme. Marlowe then questions Mars's access to Geiger's house. Mars reveals his ownership of the house, making Geiger his tenant. The ensuing conversation between Mars and Marlowe is one of many sharp dialogues in the narrative. Mars feigns ignorance about Geiger's whereabouts, but Marlowe is aware of Mars' role in providing "protection" for Geiger's illicit business. He cleverly navigates the conversation, revealing only necessary information to assess Mars' reactions. Marlowe's behaviour irks Mars who summons his gunmen to search Marlowe. Discovering he's unarmed and genuinely a detective, Marlowe still withholds information about Joe Brody and Carmen. Eventually, Mars releases Marlowe who then heads back to Hollywood.

chapter 14

Marlowe revisits Joe Brody's apartment and gains entry by revealing that he knows Brody has Geiger's books. He also claims to have a customer list, encouraging Brody to come clean. Brody, armed with a gun, has Agnes Lozelle, the blonde from Geiger's shop, with him. She initially refutes Marlowe's allegations about Geiger's unsavory bookstore operations. Marlowe then insinuates that Brody could be mistakenly suspected of the murder to gain control of Geiger's pornography business. He asserts that he knows Brody possesses the incriminating photos, is responsible for blackmailing Vivian, and that the anonymous female voice on the phone was Agnes. Under this pressure, Brody slips up and mentions a "punk kid" who disappeared following Geiger's death, a character later discovered to be Carol Lundgren, Geiger's partner. Following a lengthy discussion, Marlowe concludes that Brody is being truthful about not being involved in Geiger's murder. Brody admits he ended his relationship with Carmen due to her erratic behavior, which she didn't take well. Eventually, Marlowe persuades Brody to give up the photos. However, just as he is about to obtain them, the doorbell interrupts them.

chapter 15

Just before opening the door, Brody passes a firearm to Agnes to aim at Marlowe. He also possesses a gun. Carmen Sternwood, armed as well, is at the door. She's there to reclaim her photos. She falsely accuses Brody of murdering Arthur Geiger, a false claim that serves as both a frame-up and a counter-blackmail tactic. As Brody is caught off guard by Carmen at the door, Marlowe seizes the opportunity to snatch the gun from Agnes. A struggle breaks out. Agnes attempts to reclaim her weapon, but Marlowe incapacitates her. A gunshot rings out between Carmen and Brody, with Marlowe ending up with all the firearms. He then makes Brody relinquish all photo prints and negatives. Marlowe dismisses Carmen, unaffected by her persistent advances, and withholds her photos for the time being.

chapter 16

Once Carmen leaves, Marlowe finds himself in Brody's apartment with Carmen's gun. He questions Brody about his occupation, learning that he works for Puss Walgreen in insurance. Marlowe drills deeper, wanting to understand how Brody acquired Carmen's picture and ensuring Brody won't disclose Carmen's presence there with her gun. Brody tries to negotiate payment for his silence and information, to which Marlowe agrees to a modest amount. Brody reveals that an anonymous "guy" gave him the picture, but his story doesn't end there. He admits to having stalked Geiger's house with the intention of entering the "book racket." He noticed Vivian Sternwood's Buick, which Owen Taylor drove the night he killed Geiger, parked nearby. Brody also shares that he followed Taylor after hearing gunshots, and pretending to be a police officer, he knocked Taylor out and stole the camera's plateholder, unaware of its contents. Upon developing the negative, Brody discovered the identity of the murder victim—Geiger, who was absent from his business the next day. This revelation led Brody to seize Geiger's operation. While Marlowe finds Brody's account believable, he continues to interrogate him about the body's whereabouts, which Brody denies knowledge of. Their discussion is interrupted by the doorbell. Brody answers the door, only to be shot dead. Marlowe pursues the shooter, recognizing him as Carol Lundgren, Geiger's store employee. Lundgren mistakenly believed Brody was responsible for Geiger's death and sought revenge for his lover.

chapter 17

Marlowe escorts Lundgren to Geiger's place. A brawl ensues as Marlowe demands Lundgren to unlock Geiger's home with a key he believes Lundgren has. Marlowe comes out on top, immobilizes Lundgren, and knocks him out cold. Lundgren's stubbornly replies to all of Marlowe's comments with, "Go —— yourself." Marlowe forces his way into the house, dragging Lundgren along. He identifies the source of the incense aroma coming from the room opposite Geiger's, the one that's bare and masculine. As it appears, Geiger's lifeless body is sprawled on the bed in that room, covered by two strips of Chinese silk arranged like a cross. Candles and incense are lit all around him. Marlowe dials up Ohls, querying if a handgun was discovered on Owen Taylor's corpse that morning. Marlowe is now confident Taylor is Geiger's killer. He informs Ohls that the firearm should have three spent shells, adding that if Ohls is curious about his source of information, he should make his way to 7244 Laverne Terrace, Geiger's residence.

chapter 18

Ohls shows up at the house where Marlowe reveals the events that transpired, presenting Geiger's corpse in the bedroom. They proceed to District Attorney Taggart Wilde's residence. Marlowe discloses the situation to both the D.A. and Captain Cronjager, deliberately omitting details about Carmen Sternwood from the narrative. The exchange hints at a distinct competition between Marlowe and the police. The discourse suggests potential legal predicaments for Marlowe due to his retention of information. Marlowe surrenders Lundgren to the police. The D.A. informs him of the expected backlash from the police over the concealment, and that he must make statements regarding his narrative. The D.A. consents to try to exclude General Sternwood from the murders, and even to categorize them as separate incidents. The D.A. appears to restrain from blaming Marlowe, seemingly appreciating his investigative work despite the meager pay. The D.A. has ties to Sternwood; his father was a good friend of the General and has often shielded him through his position. The D.A. empathizes with the General due to his troublesome daughters. The matter of Rusty Regan surfaces again, with the D.A. expressing his belief that the General may suspect Regan's involvement in the unfolding events.

chapter 19

An associate from Eddie Mars's establishment pays Marlowe a visit, conveying Mars's request for a meeting. Marlowe declines. Mars later contacts Marlowe, cautioning him against revealing anything about Mars to the police. In return, Mars offers protection and possibly useful information about Rusty Regan. Marlowe makes it clear he isn't actively searching for Regan, but may consider meeting Mars. Marlowe then contacts the Sternwood residence to inform Vivian through the butler that he possesses Carmen's photos and all is well. Despite his phone ringing non-stop all night, Marlowe ignores it. Marlowe scrutinizes the newspaper stories about Geiger's murder and finds them significantly inaccurate. The articles incorrectly state that Owen Taylor unambiguously killed himself and entirely avoid any connection between him and Geiger's murder. The newspapers also fail to acknowledge Marlowe or Ohls' hand in solving the case, giving all the credit to Captain Cronjager.

chapter 20

Marlowe visits Captain Gregory at the Missing Persons Bureau, seeking information on Regan. He confirms with the Captain if they're looking into Regan’s disappearance, stating his concern is to assure Regan's disconnection from any blackmail plot. Captain Gregory shares with Marlowe that Regan vanished on September 16, his car mysteriously appearing in a private garage four days later, devoid of any fingerprints. He confirms Marlowe's knowledge of Regan's supposed departure with Mars's wife, adding that Regan habitually carried $15,000 in cash. He gives Marlowe a snapshot of Regan, who Marlowe notes doesn't have the "face of a tough guy" nor the "face of a man who could be pushed around much by anybody." Gregory dismisses the theory of Mars killing Regan over jealousy, due to it being too clear-cut given Mars's wife left with Regan. He suggests that Regan and Mona Mars likely used Mona's car to escape. With scant evidence, the Missing Persons Bureau has little to go on, and Gregory suggests waiting until Regan and Mrs. Mars run out of funds and leave a trace. He believes finding Regan could take significant time. Gregory's seeming indifference bothers Marlowe, worried that his client, General Sternwood, may not survive to see Regan found. Upon leaving the office, he notices a gray Plymouth sedan tailing him, but he manages to lose it.

chapter 21

Norris, the Sternwood butler, phones Marlowe and communicates General Sternwood’s decision. According to the General, Marlowe should take a $500 check and treat the investigation as concluded. Yet, Marlowe's thoughts remain on Regan, ruling out Eddie Mars as his potential murderer, akin to the Captain's conclusion. He revisits the "closed" investigation, acknowledging that the best course of action would be to let it be. Instead, he reaches out to Mars for a conversation that night. Marlowe shows up at the Cypress Club during a foggy evening. Mars reveals that Vivian Regan is busy gambling in the casino. Mars is appreciative of Marlowe's silence about him to the police, offering a favor in return. Marlowe, however, wants to know Regan's whereabouts from Mars on behalf of General Sternwood. He also raises the topic of the blackmail and Regan's potential link to it. Their conversation progresses with Mars mentioning Vivian's poor gambling habits that are causing him problems. Marlowe expresses his wish to inspect the surroundings, while Mars maintains his promise of repaying Marlowe's discretion about him to the police one day with "a real favor." Before leaving, Marlowe queries if Mars has anyone tailing him in a gray Plymouth sedan. Mars denies, but his surprised expression says otherwise.

chapter 22

The Cypress Club radiates an air of subdued elegance, a stark contrast to the flashy establishments in Hollywood. Its past as a ballroom is still apparent. Here, Vivian Sternwood is betting aggressively at a roulette game. Her stakes are high enough to make the dealer uncomfortable. Eddie Mars is summoned and Vivian declares her intention to wager her entire $6,000. Mars coolly covers her bet with his own money. Much to everyone's surprise, Vivian wins and Mars, unbothered, retreats to his office. Afterward, as Vivian is gathering her prize and preparing to depart, Marlowe leaves the club. Once outside in the extremely foggy weather, Marlowe notices something unusual. He hears a man coughing and discerns that the man is masked. Choosing to stay hidden behind a tree, Marlowe deliberates his next move and observes the masked man's actions.

chapter 23

Marlowe encounters a woman, Vivian Sternwood, being robbed at gunpoint by a masked individual. After sneaking up on the assailant and disarming him, Marlowe tells the man to flee, promising silence on both ends. Vivian sarcastically expresses gratitude, questioning Marlowe's presence at the Cypress Club. He explains he's there investigating why Mars believes he's searching for Regan. They find Larry Cobb, Mrs. Regan's companion for the evening, inebriated in the car garage. A club employee pledges to arrange pickup for Cobb, prompting Marlowe's offer to escort Vivian home. Her uneasy demeanor suggests the attempted robbery has now impacted her. Stopping at a drugstore for coffee, Marlowe provocatively comments on Vivian's "wicked eyes" and probes her on what Mars could be using against her. She suggests the masked attacker was likely sent by Mars to retrieve the money she had won. Their conversation continues on the way to the beach club, Vivian's requested destination, where they share a kiss. However, Marlowe remains undistracted. He persists in questioning Vivian about Mars, upsetting her. He posits the robbery was staged potentially for his "benefit". The conversation ends negatively once more, and Marlowe takes Vivian back home.

chapter 24

Marlowe comes back to his place, detecting a feminine fragrance. He discovers Carmen Sternwood, unclothed, in his bed, having been let in by the caretaker. She'd stolen Marlowe's card from Vivian and convinced the caretaker that Marlowe had asked her to wait in his flat. On spotting Carmen, Marlowe heads to a chessboard and manipulates his knight piece while Carmen giggles from the bed. Her laughter reminds him of "rats behind the wainscoting." Though Carmen makes attempts at seduction, Marlowe rebuffs her, insisting she puts on her clothes. Disregarding his words, she continues her giggling. He glances at his chessboard, realizing his knight's move was incorrect. He retracts his move, musing, "Knights had no meaning in this game. It wasn't a game for knights." Carmen grows irate as Marlowe maintains his refusal and insists she dresses and departs. Eventually, she exits.

chapter 25

Marlowe, feeling an aversion for women, starts his day amidst rainfall and spots the familiar gray Plymouth sedan. The vehicle, which has been shadowing him, is parked nearby. He speculates about the occupant. Upon reaching his office, he confronts the man from the car, who has trailed him the entire distance. He offers the man to discuss the matter in his office. Leaving the man behind, he enters his office and finds a $500 check from General Sternwood. Soon, his office buzzer rings and the man from the car, revealed as Harry Jones, shows up. Jones has crucial intel which he's ready to exchange for $200. Marlowe suspects Agnes Lozelle's involvement. Jones reveals that Mona Grant didn't elope with Regan. Instead, Eddie Mars is hiding her to perpetuate the belief that she did. Jones introduces Lash Canino, Mars's gunman. He learned about this from Joe Brody, who was probing the Regan-Mona case for profit. Brody had once spotted Mrs. Regan in a car with Canino. Given Canino's association with Mrs. Regan and Mars, Brody inferred that Canino had Regan-related information. Marlowe learns that Agnes came across Mona Grant by chance. According to Jones, Agnes will disclose the hideout location once she gets the money. Marlowe fails to grasp why or how Agnes and Harry are involved. Jones retorts, "[Agnes is] a grifter, shamus. I'm a grifter. We're all grifters. So we sell each other out for a nickel." Jones instructs Marlowe to bring the money to Puss Walgreen's office—an insurance business front we already heard of through Brody. Post-receipt, Jones will take Marlowe to Agnes who will share the information.

chapter 26

That evening, Marlowe sneaks into Puss Walgreen's office where he hears Canino interrogating Jones about his tailing activities. Canino is curious why Jones's car has been behind Marlowe. Mars is aware and demands a reason. Jones explains his motive to extort Marlowe with information about Carmen Sternwood's location on the night Brody was killed. Jones reveals Carmen was at Geiger's and tried to shoot Brody over a compromising photo. He insists his surveillance of Marlowe has no connection to Mars. When Canino inquires about Agnes, Jones initially refuses to share. Facing Canino's gun, Jones finally provides an address. It seems Canino is satisfied. Yet before leaving, he offers Jones a drink laced with cyanide causing Jones's death. Marlowe stays hidden until he leaves and then discovers Jones's corpse. Marlowe tries to verify Agnes's location using the address Jones shared with Canino. It appears there's no Agnes there; Jones lied to protect her. Marlowe appreciates Jones's loyalty. Shortly after, Agnes calls. Marlowe tells her Canino visited the office, which frightened Jones into fleeing. Marlowe and Agnes agree on a rendezvous to exchange cash for Mona Grant's information.

chapter 27

Marlowe rendezvous with Agnes in a pre-set parking lot, where she discloses Mona's hideout to him. It's located east of Realito, close to a cyanide factory and adjacent to a garage operated by Art Huck. Agnes stumbled upon this information during a drive with Joe Brody, upon spotting Canino with Eddie Mars's wife. After parting ways with Agnes, Marlowe heads for the disclosed location. Along the highway, his tires are punctured by tacks scattered on the road. He manages to spot a light in the distance, possibly from Art Huck's garage, from his breakdown spot. Armed with the handgun he had snatched from Vivian's assailant, he approaches the garage. Feigning a need for tire repair, Marlowe knocks on the garage door, spotting Canino's vehicle parked outside. Art is initially reluctant to let him in, but upon Canino's insistence, he obliges. He is instructed by Canino to aid Marlowe with his tire issue. Following a silent exchange between Canino and Art, Art grudgingly agrees to repair the tires. Subsequently, Canino offers Marlowe a drink – a drink Marlowe notes doesn't contain cyanide. However, before he can react, he's ambushed by Canino and Art and ends up taking a beating.

chapter 28

Marlowe regains consciousness after taking a beating, finding himself tied, handcuffed, and in a house next to a garage. A woman, Mona Grant, wife of Eddie Mars, is in his company. Despite the pain from his beating, Marlowe engages in his usual quick-witted exchanges. He is evidently attracted to Mona, who he refers to as "Silver-Wig" because of her platinum wig. Mona is protective of her husband Mars and contests when Marlowe labels him a murderer, or even worse, one who kills indirectly. She reassures Marlowe that Mars isn't responsible for Rusty Regan's death. Even though she defends Mars, Silver-Wig frees Marlowe from his bindings. She can't undo his handcuffs since Canino, who entrusted Silver-Wig to keep an eye on Marlowe, left with the keys. Marlowe urges her to accompany him for safety reasons, but she declines. Before he leaves, Marlowe and Silver-Wig share a kiss.

chapter 29

Marlowe sprints from the residence into the downpour, his mind consumed by Canino and his accomplice's lethal scheme against him. He reaches the highway, noticing that his previously damaged car has been fixed, likely to be driven off post their fatal act. Retrieving his firearm from the vehicle, he heads back to the dwelling, narrowly avoiding Canino’s detection. Once inside, Marlowe's restlessness prevents him from letting the situation unfold naturally and waiting for Silver-Wig to explain herself. He hurls stones at the window in hopes of drawing Canino outside. When it fails, he switches on the car ignition, anticipating that Canino will fire at the car, mistaking Marlowe to be inside. As expected, Canino falls for the ploy and Marlowe pretends to shriek in agony. Amused, Canino sends Silver-Wig to inspect the situation. She sides with Marlowe, exclaiming that she sees his lifeless body at the steering wheel. Deceived by Silver-Wig, Canino lowers his defenses, allowing Marlowe to seize the moment and shoot him down.

chapter 30

Marlowe is conversing with Captain Gregory at the Missing Persons Bureau. The police, including the homicide team, have scolded him for his independent actions. He informs the Captain that he's stepping away from the case, even though Rusty Regan remains missing. Despite knowing this is likely an empty promise, Captain Gregory lets Marlowe go, leaving Marlowe with the suspicion that the Captain is hiding something. Later that evening, sleep evades Marlowe as he replays the previous night's events. He considers Silver-Wig, who was ultimately freed by the police, and his own confession about shooting Canino. In the middle of his recollections, Norris, the Sternwoods' servant, calls. He requests Marlowe to visit General Sternwood in the morning. Upon reaching the Sternwood residence, he finds the General seriously sick. The General seems to accuse Marlowe of treachery, arguing that he never formally asked him to locate Regan. However, once Marlowe asserts that he's done with the case, the General discloses his true motive. He offers Marlowe additional $1,000 to find Regan. The General explains it's not about his daughter being abandoned by Regan, but his own fondness for Regan and his desire to ensure Regan is okay. Additionally, he wants to validate his own ability to judge people.

chapter 31

Marlowe encounters Carmen Sternwood outside and hands her back her firearm. Ever playful, she requests his guidance in learning to shoot. He holds onto the gun until they reach the designated shooting area as per Carmen's guidance. The area is a desolate landscape, filled with rusting, disused oil pumps. Setting up tin cans for target shooting, Marlowe hands the gun back to Carmen. But instead of aiming at the cans, Carmen points it at Marlowe, instructing him not to move. She pulls the trigger, but instead of a bullet, nothing comes out. Unfazed, Marlowe smiles at her—he had filled the gun with blank rounds. As Carmen reels from the confusion and shock, she starts trembling and eventually passes out. On their way back home, she rouses from her faint and inquires, "What happened?"

chapter 32

Marlowe brings Carmen back home and explains the entire crime scenario to her sister, Vivian. He connects all the dots involving the blackmail, murder, Geiger, Brody, their photographs, Eddie Mars, Canino, and Mona. Vivian initially shows indifference, but her interest piques when Marlowe begins to discuss the Rusty Regan situation. He reveals to Vivian that Carmen, angered by rejection, attempted to murder him in the same manner she killed Regan. Marlowe suggests that Vivian had used Regan's own money to pay Canino to discard Regan's body. Marlowe further insists that Carmen, due to her evident mental instability, should be institutionalized. Vivian, at this point, admits to Marlowe's deductions and reveals Regan's resting place—an oil sump. She had chosen to hide her sister's crime out of fear of legal consequences, lack of genuine affection for Regan, and to protect their father, the General, from the devastating truth in his final days. Marlowe once again urges Vivian to seek help for Carmen, offering her a three-day grace period before he goes public with the murder. As the story concludes, Marlowe contemplates the idea of death—the "big sleep"—and thinks of Silver-wig.

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