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The Big Sleep

Raymond Chandler

Chapters 10–12

Chapters 7–9

Chapters 13–15

Summary

Chapter 10

Back in Geiger's bookstore, Marlowe tells the attractive blond in the front that his last visit was nonsense, that what he really wanted was to talk to Geiger because he had something Geiger would want. Marlowe tells the woman that he is "in the business too." She becomes uneasy when Marlowe insists on seeing Geiger one way or another. She claims, nervously, that Geiger is out of town, and asks Marlowe to come back tomorrow.

Before Marlowe can respond, a young man opens the back door. Before the young man can close the door, Marlowe notices that there is much movement in the back room. He realizes that Geiger's stock of pornography merchandise is being moved out.

Marlowe exits the store, gets into a taxi, and follows the small black truck leaving Geiger's shop. He tails the truck all the way to the garage of an apartment building. When Marlowe gets out of the car to investigate, he looks over the names on the mailboxes to the apartment building. One of the names reads "Joseph Brody." Marlowe takes note of the apartment because he recalls that one Joe Brody had once bribed General Sternwood for $5,000.

Later, to confirm, Marlowe goes out to the garage and asks the man unloading the truck where all the merchandise was going—not surprisingly, it is all going to Brody. After collecting all the information he could, Marlowe gets back into the cab and goes downtown to his office, where he has a client waiting for him.

Chapter 11

The client waiting for Marlowe is Vivian Sternwood. She says she knows about what happened to Owen Taylor and she admits that he was in love with her sister, Carmen. Marlowe tells Vivian that Taylor had a police record in order to gauge her response. She only responds that Taylor "didn't know the right people. That's all a police record means in this rotten crime-ridden country."

However, Owen Taylor is not what Vivian has come to discuss—she has come to discuss the fact that she is being blackmailed. She received a letter, addressed to her, along with a picture of her naked sister. Later, a woman telephoned to demand $5,000 for the return of the rest of the pictures and the negatives. After Vivian's is finished telling the tale, Marlowe interrogates her to find out where she spent the previous night. She claims to have been at Eddie Mars's Cypress Club. Marlowe also asks her what Taylor was doing with her car the night before. She claims not to have known he had taken it.

Marlowe says that he might be able to help Vivian, but that he is unable to tell her how or why. She responds flirtatiously, telling him that she likes him and that she will get the $5,000 from Eddie Mars. She adds another piece of information: she tells Marlowe that it was Eddie Mars's wife, Mona Mars, with whom Rusty Regan, Vivian's husband, ran away. Vivian again slyly probes the question of whether Marlowe is searching for Regan. He again tells her he is not. The conversation continues in a flirtatious vein until it is evident that Marlowe is not playing Vivian's game. She leaves, once again, on a bad note.

Later, Marlowe speaks with Ohls, who continues to say that the police do not know whether Owen Taylor's death was a murder or a suicide. Ohls also says that he checked with the Sternwood residence and that everyone was home the night before, aside from Mrs. Regan, who was down at the Cypress Club. Ohls confirmed the information with a boy he knew on one of the gambling tables at the Club.

Marlowe goes to retrieve his car, which has been towed. He verifies that nothing has been printed yet in the papers about Geiger's death. Finally, he takes another look at Geiger's coded notebook.

Chapter 12

Marlowe returns to the scene of the crime at Geiger's house, only to find Carmen Sternwood in the house. In the daylight, everything from the night before looks dirtier: "all this in the daytime had a stealthy nastiness." Carmen asks Marlowe if he is the police. He tells her that he is not, but that he is rather a friend of her father. Marlowe asks Carmen who killed Geiger. When he suggests Joe Brody, she reacts strongly and says that yes, it was Joe Brody who did it. As Marlowe tries to get information from her, she turns into the Carmen Sternwood we are familiar with: dumb, giggly, and flirty, with an edge of nastiness.

Carmen says that her sister, Vivian, told her Marlowe's name was not Reilly, that it was Philip Marlowe and that he was a private detective. Marlowe tells Carmen that the photograph she came back to look for—whether she admits it or not—is gone. He asks her again about Brody, about whether she truly believes he was the killer. She nods her head in affirmation. Suddenly Carmen says she wants to leave but, just as she is about to, they hear a car coming up the driveway. Carmen becomes afraid. Someone begins to open the door—a man enters the house and sees them both.

Analysis

In these chapters, elements of the story begin to come together, and the plot thickens. Chandler incorporates the hints about Joe Brody that he introduced earlier, and continues to establish tone and mood. Vivian Sternwood's quote about Owen Taylor's is particularly significant, as it describes the Los Angeles that Chandler wishes to evoke. When Vivian says that Owen did not know the "right people," it could be taken as implying that the Sternwoods themselves are not the "right"—that is, if we take the word "right" to mean "good."

Furthermore, Chandler reveals more of Vivian and, because we see her through Marlowe, we learn more about Marlowe as well. When Marlowe finds Vivian in his office, there is a mention of Marcel Proust—an allusion to her education and Marlowe's lack of "refinement," as he does not know who Proust is. We get the sense that Vivian "wears" her money and her education openly, though she does not, so to speak, wear her true self on her sleeve. Indeed, we are constantly reminded, through implication and via Marlowe's cross-examination, that Vivian appears to be hiding something. It is also important to note that Marlowe does not give into Vivian's temptations. He resists her, but he is human; he finds her attractive, as she does not repulse him to the extent her sister does, perhaps because she is not as overtly "dirty." Therefore, we begin to realize that Marlowe, despite his seeming toughness and crassness, is quite human, and perhaps even sensitive.

Ohls, in these chapters, is an aid to Marlowe but also appears a bit corrupt. Ohls can verify that Vivian was at Eddie Mars's Cypress Club only because Ohls himself knew people who were there, which would imply that he, himself, is a gambler, or at least employs them as informants. Even the law is involved in such activities in Los Angeles: when Marlowe points this out in his own sarcastic way, Ohls responds, "With the syndicate we got in this county? Be your age, Marlowe." In short, the novel's knight is being told that he is naïve.

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