History: This book was written in 1940. It was made into a movie three times.
Plot: A chance encounter with hulking ex-con Moose Malloy on Los Angeles' Central Avenue, the part that is "not yet all negro", gets Marlowe into all kinds of trouble. Just released from prison, Malloy is looking for his one-time girlfriend, red-haired Velma, whom he last saw eight years ago. The nightclub where she used to sing, Florian's, is now a black "dine and dice emporium", and no one there has ever heard of her. Malloy flees after casually killing the black boss of the club, and Marlowe, the only white witness to Malloy's mayhem, is asked by a detective on the case, Nulty, to look for Velma. He learns the address of Florian's widow and visits her, a drunken middle-aged floozy. The widow tells him, unconvincingly, that Velma Valento is dead.
Later that afternoon, Marlowe is hired by Lindsay Marriott to assist in handing over an $8,000 ransom for a rare jade necklace owned by a woman friend of Marriott's. However, at the isolated meeting point—a lonely canyon in the middle of the night—Marlowe is knocked out. When Marlowe comes to, he chances upon a passerby, Anne Riordan, who has found Marriott murdered. Anne takes some marijuana cigarettes off Marriott before Marlowe contacts the police. Later, Anne gives the cigarettes to Marlowe. With Anne's help Marlowe learns that the owner of the necklace is a Mrs. Grayle. Marlowe visits Mrs. Grayle, a beautiful blonde married to an elderly millionaire, who backs up Marriott's story that she was robbed of the necklace.
Suspicious of Marriott's joints, Marlowe cuts one open and finds the business card of one "Jules Amthor", "Psychic Consultant". Marlowe also learns that the title to the house of Florian's widow was in Marriott's name. Marlowe meets Amthor at the latter's "modernistic" hilltop home. There, Marlowe is beaten up with the help of crooked policemen. Later removed to a "sanitorium", Marlowe is shot full of dope but manages to escape. With a policeman, Marlowe finds Florian's widow murdered in her house. Marlowe makes it to a gambling ship off the coast where he attempts to get word to Malloy that he has information for him.
Marlowe lands back at his Hollywood apartment, takes a nap and awakes to find the Moose there. Mrs. Grayle then arrives while Malloy hides. Mrs. Grayle and Marlowe talk and it becomes clear that Velma and Mrs. Grayle are the same person. It is revealed that after realizing her new identity was in jeopardy from Marlowe's inquiries she was anxious to stop his investigation. It is implied that she killed Marriott because he wouldn't go through with Marlowe's murder at the isolated rendezvous. When she comes face to face with Malloy, she kills him and flees. At the end of the novel, Marlowe relates that she commits suicide in Baltimore after her true identity is found out by police there.
Review: I couldn’t finish this one. I didn’t like the setting, seems too racially divided. I am not a fan of detective stories anyway, and this one just didn’t come across as remotely exciting.
Opening Line: “It was one of the mixed blocks over on Central Avenue, the blocks that weren’t all Negro.”
Closing Line: “It was a cool day, and very clear; you could see a long way, but not as far as Velma had gone.”
Quotes: "His smile was as cunning as a broken mousetrap."
Rating: Not good.