Study Guide

The Big Sleep

The Big Sleep Summary

It's a dreary October morning in Los Angeles. And it looks like it's about to rain.

Private detective Philip Marlowe pays a visit to millionaire General Sternwood. The dying General is being blackmailed by Arthur Geiger, who claims that Sternwood's daughter Carmen owes him gambling debts. And it's Marlowe's job to track down Geiger's whereabouts. During the meeting, Marlowe also senses that there is something fishy going on with the disappearance of Rusty Regan, the General's son-in-law and husband to Vivian. Rumor has it that Regan ran off with Mona Grant. So in a nutshell, there seem to be two main plotlines in the novel: (1) the blackmail scheme, and (2) the disappearance of Regan.

Let's start with the first plotline. Marlowe learns that Geiger's using his rare bookstore as a front for an illegal pornography racket. Later the same day, Geiger is murdered and Marlowe finds Carmen naked at the scene of the crime… yikes.

The next morning, another stiff surfaces, and this time it's Owen Taylor—the chauffeur. Apparently, Vivian is being blackmailed with nude photos of Carmen, and Marlowe traces the photos back to a Mr. Joe Brody. But before Marlowe is able to turn Brody in to the police, Carol Lundgren shows up out of nowhere and shoots Brody in the mistaken belief that Brody had killed Geiger. Don't worry if your head is spinning. Ours is, too. The plot is really convoluted and hard to follow, so you just have to go with the flow.

Okay now on to the second plotline. Marlowe's job is technically done now. He has exposed the blackmailers and the case should be closed. But Marlowe decides against his better judgment to find the truth behind Regan's disappearance. No one wants to help Marlowe, least of all Vivian, who owes gambling debts to Eddie Mars (who also happens to be Mona's husband, as in the gal who supposedly ran off with Regan. Talk about a love triangle…. or quadrangle…).

Enter Harry Jones. He has a scoop on Mona's whereabouts, but before Marlowe is able to get the necessary information, Harry is poisoned by Canino, Mars' right-hand man. Marlowe somehow manages to track down Mona, and a few fist fights and gunshots later, Marlowe has killed Canino and escaped with Mona.

The next day, Marlowe pays a visit to the General and runs into Carmen, who wants Marlowe to teach her how to shoot a gun. And then…. bang, bang, bang, bang, bang! Carmen fires five shots straight at Marlowe. But having already suspected Carmen of foul play, Marlowe had loaded the gun with blanks. Phew, close call.

Marlowe figures out that Carmen is the one who murdered Rusty, because he (like Marlowe) had also rejected her sexually. When Marlowe confronts Vivian, she confesses that Rusty is buried under an oil sump and that she had paid Mars to help her bury the body. At the end of the novel, Marlowe contemplates death—the "big sleep"—and concludes that death is the only escape from the nastiness and depravity of life.

  • Chapter 1

    • It's eleven o'clock on a cloudy October morning. Weather forecast: rain, plenty of it. Detective Philip Marlowe enters the Sternwood mansion in Los Angeles, dressed in his best suit. He's calling on one of the wealthiest men in the city, after all.
    • Marlowe looks around at the ritzy interior of the mansion when his eyes fall on a stained glass window of a knight rescuing a naked woman tied to a tree. Think King Arthur in Camelot
    • Enter Carmen Sternwood, the beautiful blonde bombshell (try saying that three times fast!). She has a weird habit of biting her thumb and giggling constantly. 
    • She's a big flirt and shamelessly throws herself into Marlowe's arms. Marlowe seems to be completely unaffected by Carmen's bold advances. 
    • Norris the butler walks in on Marlowe holding Carmen, and announces that General Sternwood is ready to see Marlowe.
  • Chapter 2

    • Norris takes Marlowe to the sick and dying General Sternwood, who's sitting in his wheelchair in the greenhouse. 
    • Marlowe feels like he's suffocating in the sticky humidity of the greenhouse, which is home to dozens of orchids. 
    • The General tells Marlowe that he's being blackmailed. And not for the first time. In the past, a man named Joe Brody had blackmailed him and the General was forced to pay $5000 to protect Carmen.
    • Now the General is being blackmailed for $1000 by Arthur Geiger, who claims that Carmen owes him money from gambling debts. Geiger runs a business selling rare antique books, and the General wants Marlowe to uncover what Geiger is really up to.
    • Sternwood also mentions in passing that his son-in-law, Rusty Regan, has disappeared. 
    • Marlowe leaves the greenhouse and Norris tells him that "Mrs. Regan"—a.k.a. Vivian Sternwood—wants to see him.
  • Chapter 3

    • Marlowe enters Vivian's room, which is lavishly decorated in modern furniture. Marlowe is impressed by Vivian's beauty, but thinks that she's "trouble." 
    • Vivian wants to know why her father hired Marlowe. She attempts to get Marlowe to tell her whether her father wants Marlowe to find out what happened to Rusty. 
    • Then she explains that one day out of the blue Rusty got up and left without saying a word to anyone, and that later his car was found in a garage. Marlowe says he wasn't hired to look for Rusty, and his "tough guy" act gets on Vivian's nerves. 
    • After leaving the Sternwood mansion, Marlowe looks out over the Sternwoods' oilfields. Thunder sounds in the distance. Marlowe heads to the Hollywood Public Library to do research on rare books.
  • Chapter 4

    • Marlowe drives to Geiger's bookstore. A pretty blonde asks Marlowe if she can be of assistance. 
    • Talking in a fake effeminate voice, Marlowe tries to test the woman's knowledge of rare books by asking about several first editions (which don't actually exist!). The woman says the store doesn't carry these books.
    • Marlowe waits for Geiger when a mysterious man goes into the back room of the store and comes out with a wrapped package that looks like a book. He's acting shady, so when he leaves the shop, Marlowe tails him. 
    • The man tries to lose Marlowe, but decides to play it safe by abandoning the incriminating package by a tree. 
    • Marlowe recovers the package (any guesses as to what's inside?). He hears thunder rumbling again.
  • Chapter 5

    • Marlowe goes to a phone booth to call Geiger but there's no answer. Big surprise.
    • So he decides to check out other bookstores near Geiger's store and finds one run by a dark-haired woman wearing glasses. 
    • Marlowe asks her the same questions he asked the girl at Geiger's shop, but this time, the woman knows the answers. She catches on that Marlowe is asking a trick question because the book he wants doesn't exist. 
    • She gives up the goods, and Marlowe gets a physical description of Geiger from the woman.
    • As Marlowe leaves the bookstore, it starts to rain. He opens the package he'd been holding. It's exactly what he thought it would be: pornography. 
    • Geiger's racket is obvious by now. The guy loans out pornographic books from the back room of his store, fronting the whole operation as a rare bookstore.
  • Chapter 6

    • Rain, rain, and more rain. Marlowe escapes the foul weather by waiting in his car and staking out Geiger's store until he sees a man matching the description of Geiger enter the shop.
    • When Geiger leaves in his car, Marlowe follows him to Geiger's house high up in the hills. Parked a few houses over, Marlowe sees another white car pull in the driveway. A young woman gets out and enters the house. When the coast is clear, Marlowe checks the white car's registration, which reads Carmen Sternwood.
    • At 7:20, Marlowe sees a white flash go off inside the house. Then he hears a scream. 
    • Several seconds later, three gunshots go off and footsteps are heard leaving the house. 
    • Marlowe breaks in through the window and sees two people inside. One of them is dead.
  • Chapter 7

    • Marlowe tells us that Geiger's house is ornately decorated with Chinese cushions, embroidered silks hanging on the walls, and oriental furniture. There is an odd smell in the room, including the scent of ether. 
    • Marlowe sees Carmen sitting on a chair. Completely naked. Yep, you read that right. Carmen seems unaware of her surroundings and has a strange empty expression on her face. Looks like she's been drugged. 
    • At Carmen's feet is the lifeless body of Geiger, who has been shot.
    • Marlowe then notices a camera pointing at Carmen. The camera is hidden inside a totem pole with a flash bulb attached to it. Marlowe pieces together all the clues: the bright white light he had seen a few minutes earlier came from the camera flash and the scream had been Carmen's surprise when the flash went off. 
    • Carmen is incapable of dressing herself so Marlowe helps her into her clothes. 
    • Marlowe then inspects the totem pole, and realizes that there's no plateholder in the camera. The camera film is missing. He searches the whole house and finds nothing except a blue leather book with notes written in some kind of code. So he pockets the notebook and drives Carmen home in her car.
  • Chapter 8

    • At the Sternwood mansion, Marlow asks for Mrs. Reagan but she's not in. Norris takes Carmen upstairs and offers to call a cab for Marlowe. But Marlowe refuses, to make sure there's no record that he's been there. Smart move.
    • Instead, Marlowe walks in the rain back to Geiger's house. Before reentering the house, he takes a swig of whiskey from the bottle he carries with him. He immediately notices that something's wrong. Two strips of silk are missing from the wall. And… wait for it… Geiger's body is gone.
    • Marlowe searches the house again, and uses Geiger's keys to open a locked bedroom. The room is different from the rest of the house—more "masculine," in Marlowe's words. He finds nothing there, so he locks the door again.
    • Marlowe comes to the conclusion that whoever moved the body wanted to make it look like Geiger is missing, not dead. Marlowe also believes that it wasn't the murderer who had hidden the body because the killer would've left quickly, fearing a witness may have seen him. 
    • Marlowe decides that it's fine with him to keep the body hidden because it buys him more time. When he sits down to try and break the code in the notebook, all he can come up with is that it's a list of customers. There are at least four hundred entries in the list. 
    • Bah! Marlowe returns home, frustrated and drunk.
  • Chapter 9

    • The next morning is bright and sunny. Marlowe wakes up with a massive hangover. 
    • The phone rings: it's Bernie Ohls, the D.A.s chief investigator. Ohls informs Marlowe that a Buick was found in the ocean with a body inside, apparently after driving off the Lido fishing pier.
    • At Lido, the police claim that the evidence suggests the accident happened around 10 p.m. last night. It is unclear whether the death is suicide or murder.
    • The hand throttle of the car is set halfway down and the left side of the man's head has been smashed in. Looks like murder to us. But then again, there are no swerve marks on the pier, which makes it appear more like a suicide.
    • When the body is recovered, Marlowe recognizes it as the Sternwoods' chauffeur, Owen Taylor. Not surprisingly, Taylor had a police record: he had attempted to take Carmen away with him to Yuma, Arizona, but Vivian had tracked them down and placed Taylor in jail. 
    • Ohls also tells Marlowe that Taylor wanted to marry Carmen, but Vivian was against it. When Taylor got out of jail, the family still rehired him.
    • Ohls heads to the Sternwood mansion to inform the family about Taylor's death, and Marlowe goes back to Geiger's store for more questioning.
  • Chapter 10

    • At Geiger's bookstore, Marlowe tells the attractive blonde that his last visit was an act, and that he was really looking for Geiger because he had something for him. Marlowe claims to be in the same racket as Geiger. The woman becomes nervous and asks Marlowe to come back tomorrow.
    • A young man opens the back door, and Marlowe notices that Geiger's stock of pornography is being moved into a truck.
    • Marlowe quickly leaves the store, grabs a taxi, and follows the truck to a garage in an apartment building. When he inspects the mailboxes to the building, one of the names reads "Joseph Brody." A Joe Brody had once bribed the General for $5000, so Marlowe takes note of the apartment number, just in case it's the same guy (it's Apartment 405, if you're collecting clues).
    • Marlowe goes to the garage and finds out from the man unloading the truck that all the merchandise was going to Brody. Big shocker.
    • Marlowe gets back into the cab and heads downtown to his office, where a client is waiting for him.
  • Chapter 11

    • The client waiting for Marlowe is none other than Vivian. She tells him that she has heard the news about Taylor and admits that he was in love with Carmen. 
    • Marlowe tries to test Vivian's reaction by mentioning Taylor's police record, but Vivian's only response is that Taylor didn't know the right people. 
    • Vivian then says that she didn't come to discuss Taylor. She tells Marlowe that she's being blackmailed. She received a letter with a picture of her naked sister.
    • And later, a woman telephoned to demand $5000 for the return of the negatives.
    • Marlowe asks where Vivian was the previous night and she claims to have been at Eddie Mars' Cypress Club. She also claims that she doesn't know Taylor had taken her car.
    • Vivian says that she'll get the $5000 from Eddie, and also mentions that it was Eddie's wife, Mona Mars, who ran off with Rusty. Ouch. 
    • Vivian again asks whether Marlowe is looking for Rusty, and Marlowe promises that he isn't. The conversation continues in this flirtatious tone, but Marlowe won't play into Vivian's hand so she again leaves on a sour note. 
    • Later, Marlowe phones Ohls, who tells him that the police can't confirm whether Taylor's death was suicide or murder. Ohls also confirms that Vivian's alibi checked out and that she had been seen at the Cypress Club.
    • Marlowe goes to pick up his car, which had been towed. He also checks the newspaper and confirms that Geiger's death hasn't been reported.
  • Chapter 12

    • Marlowe goes back to the scene of the crime, but when he enters Geiger's house, guess who's there. Carmen. Of course.
    • Marlowe asks Carmen who killed Geiger, and when he suggests Joe Brody, she reacts strongly and affirms that yes it was Joe. But when Marlowe tries to pry more information from her, she plays dumb and goes back to her usual giggling and flirting.
    • Marlowe tells her that if she had come to look for the film negatives, they weren't there. Carmen says she wants to leave, but they hear a car coming up the driveway, and she freaks out. 
    • The door swings open, and a man dressed all in gray walks through.
  • Chapter 13

    • The man dressed in gray is Eddie Mars. Marlowe stalls for time by saying that he and Carmen are business acquaintances who came to pick up a book from Geiger.
    • Mars doesn't buy Marlowe's story. He lets Carmen split, but makes Marlowe hang around a while longer
    • When Mars notices the blood stain on the floor, Marlowe claims he hadn't seen it and explains that he's a private dick, hired by the Sternwoods to look into a case of blackmail. 
    • When Marlowe asks why Mars has a key to Geiger's place, Mars says that he owns the house and that Geiger is his tenant.
    • The conversation between Mars and Marlowe is fast-paced and hardboiled (see "Writing Style"). Mars claims that he only wants to know Geiger's whereabouts, but Marlowe tries to gauge Mars' reactions by saying that he knows about Geiger's pornography racket. 
    • Eventually, Mars becomes annoyed with Marlowe's attempt to avoid his questioning, so he calls in his two bodyguards, who frisk Marlowe for weapons. The bodyguards also confirm that Marlowe has a detective license and they finally let Marlowe leave. Phew, that was close.
    • Marlowe heads back to Hollywood in one piece.
  • Chapter 14

    • Marlowe goes to Joe Brody's apartment building and knocks on Apartment 405. Brody lets him in when Marlowe says that he knows about Geiger's racket and has a list of his customers. 
    • Brody has a gun pointed at Marlowe, and guess who else is in the room. The blond from Geiger's shop, Agnes Lozelle. The blondes in this novel sure do get around.
    • Agnes initially denies Marlowe's accusations about the porn business Geiger was running. But Marlowe explains that others think that Brody had a good motive for killing Geiger in order to take over the porn racket. 
    • Marlowe also says that he knows Brody was the one who sent the blackmail letter to Vivian, that he has the naked photos of Carmen, and that Agnes was the woman who phoned Vivian. Not bad guesswork, Mr. Marlowe.
    • Brody cracks under the pressure and reveals an important clue. He asks whether the "witness" Marlowe mentioned regarding Geiger's murder was the "punk kid" who works at the store. Marlowe has no idea who this kid is yet, and neither do we.… mystery abounds!
    • Marlowe eventually realizes that Brody is telling the truth about not being the murderer. Brody explains that Carmen hates him after he broke up with her.
    • Apparently she can't handle rejection too well. 
    • Marlowe convinces Brody to hand over the pictures, but as he reaches for them, the doorbell rings.
  • Chapter 15

    • Brody hands his gun to Agnes so that she can keep Marlowe in check. And then he takes out a second gun. Blackmailers always have to be well-armed—it's a job requirement.
    • When Brody opens the door, Carmen pushes her way through, holding a small black revolver. Our gun count is up to three now. Yikes.
    • Carmen has come to retrieve her photos, claiming that she saw Brody kill Geiger. This is a big fat lie, but now the tables are turned as the blackmailer is being blackmailed.
    • With Brody caught off guard, Marlowe grabs the gun from Agnes.
    • A scuffle for the gun ensues: Agnes tries to get her gun back, but Marlowe hits her on the head. A shot goes off between Brody and Carmen, and somehow in all the mess, Marlowe ends up with all three guns. (If we're ever in a gunfight, we want Marlowe on our side.)
    • Marlowe makes Brody hand over all the pictures and negatives. Carmen is making a strange hissing sound between her teeth, and there is froth at the corners of her mouth.
    • She coyly asks Marlowe for the photos, but he tells her that he'll hang onto them for now and makes her go home.
  • Chapter 16

    • After getting rid of Carmen, Marlowe threatens Brody with Carmen's gun, demanding to know where Brody works (he works in insurance for a man named Puss Walgreen). 
    • Marlowe wants to know how Brody got Carmen's photos, and Brody claims that he was watching Geiger's house because he wanted to get into Geiger's racket. 
    • Brody explains that he saw Vivian's Buick parked nearby. When he heard shots coming from the house, he saw Owen Taylor run outside and drive off in the Buick. So Brody tailed Taylor until the car skidded off the road. 
    • Then he pretended to be a cop, hit Taylor on the head and stole the plateholder from him, not knowing what the negatives held. After developing the negatives, Brody realized that Geiger was the one who had been shot since he didn't turn up to work the next day. That was when Brody decided to move in on Geiger's porn racket.
    • Marlowe appears to buy Brody's story, at least the part about not murdering Geiger. But Marlowe still can't figure out who hid Geiger's body. 
    • The doorbell rings again. (We sense danger ahead).
    • Brody opens the door. BANG! A shot is fired and Brody drops dead. 
    • Marlowe chases after the gunman and finally catches up to a handsome dark-haired boy—it's the "punk kid" that Brody mentioned who works at Geiger's store. Marlowe figures out that the kid is Geiger's lover and had shot Brody thinking that Brody had killed Geiger. 
    • Marlowe finally gets the kid to tell him that his name is Carol Lundgren. Marlowe tells Carol that he shot the wrong guy. Bummer, dude.
  • Chapter 17

    • Marlowe takes Lundgren to Geiger's house and demands that Lundgren open the door with the keys he's sure Lundgren owns. A fistfight ensues, but Marlowe wins, ties Lundgren up, and opens the door using Lundgren's keys. 
    • There's a smell of incense coming from the bedroom across from Geiger's room. Lying on the bed is a very dead Geiger, with the two missing strips of Chinese silk laid out on his body like a cross. 
    • Marlowe phones Ohls and asks if a gun was found on Taylor's body. Marlowe is now convinced that Taylor killed Geiger and that the gun should have three empty shells. And if Ohls wants to hear the rest of the story, he should come to 7244 Laverne Terrace, Geiger's address.
  • Chapter 18

    • Ohls shows up at Geiger's and Marlowe shows him the stuff. Then they all head over to the home of Taggart Wilde, the District Attorney. 
    • Marlowe tells the D.A. and Captain Cronjager what happened, but he leaves out the parts with Carmen. The conversation seems to indicate that there's a rivalry between the private detective and the police, which is no surprise. 
    • In fact, if things get dicey, Marlowe could get in some serious trouble for withholding information from the law. But we're willing to bet that Marlowe couldn't care less about what the police think of him. 
    • Still, he hands Lundgren over to police custody.
    • The D.A. agrees to keep General Sternwood's name out of the two deaths. 
    • Rusty Regan's name comes up again because the D.A. believes that the General probably thinks that Regan is somehow involved.
  • Chapter 19

    • A man from Eddie Mars' club comes to Marlowe's place to say that Mars wants to see him, but Marlowe says no thanks, bucko. 
    • A little later, Mars phones Marlowe, saying that he'll provide Marlowe with protection if he doesn't tell the police anything. Mars also offers to give Marlowe the skinny on how to find Rusty.
    • Marlowe then calls the Sternwoods and tells Norris to tell Vivian that he has retrieved the photos of Carmen. 
    • Marlowe's phone rings several times during the night, but he doesn't pick up.
    • The next morning, Marlowe reads the newspaper accounts of Geiger's murder, which report (wrongly) that Brody had killed Geiger and that Lundgren had shot Brody in revenge. None of the papers connect Geiger's killing to Owen Taylor's death, which was deemed a suicide and not a murder. Captain Cronjager is credited for solving both murders, and Marlowe's name is never mentioned. 
    • Lesson learned? Don't believe everything you read in the papers.
  • Chapter 20

    • Marlowe goes to the Missing Persons Bureau to see Captain Gregory about information on Rusty Regan. 
    • Captain Gregory tells Marlowe that Regan disappeared on September 16th, and that four days later, his car was found in a garage. No fingerprints.
    • The Captain also confirms that Regan left with Mars' wife and that he always carried $15,000 cash on his body (because that never got anybody into trouble).
    • Marlowe is shown a photo of Regan, who was apparently quite a looker.
    • Captain Gregory believes that Mars didn't murder Regan because it would have been too obvious. Gregory suspects that Mars and Mona left in Mona's car, and that the best thing to do is wait until they run out of money.
    • Frustrated by Gregory's inaction, Marlowe thinks that he owes it to his client, General Sternwood, to find out all he can about Regan's whereabouts. 
    • When Marlowe leaves the office, he notices that a gray Plymouth sedan is following him, but he manages to shake his tail.
  • Chapter 21

    • The phone rings. This time it's Norris calling to tell Marlowe that the General has a $500 check for Marlowe—case closed. 
    • Marlowe realizes that the smart thing to do would be to walk away from this whole situation, but he just can't. Instead, he calls up Mars and says that he'll come by that evening. 
    • At Eddie's Cypress Club, Marlowe sees Vivian gambling in the casino (and not, alas, singing a sultry song like she is in the movie). 
    • Next scene. Mars thanks Marlowe for keeping his name from the police, and says he wants to return the favor someday. 
    • Marlowe asks if Mars is having him followed by someone in a gray sedan. Mars looks surprised and says he hasn't. Uh oh.
  • Chapter 22

    • Vivian's playing roulette and places a bid that is too high for the table to cover. Mars is called in because Vivian wants to bet all her money, $6000. Yeah, this is headed nowhere good. 
    • Mars takes out his wallet and tells the croupier to cover the bet with Mars' own money. Vivian wins, but Mars seems unfazed.
    • Vivian collects her winnings and Marlowe waits outside for her. It's a foggy night. Marlowe hears a cough and sees a man wearing a mask. 
    • Marlowe steps behind a tree to see what the masked man is up to.
  • Chapter 23

    • Marlowe hears a woman's footsteps, and the masked man jumps out holding a gun.
    • The woman is Vivian, and the man demands the money she's just won at roulettes. 
    • Marlowe surprises the masked man, and manages to get the gun from him. Marlowe's a bit of a gun magnet if you ask us.
    • Vivian sarcastically thanks Marlowe for his help, but she seems shaken by the holdup.
    • They drive to a drugstore and Marlowe asks Vivian what Mars has on her, but she avoids the question, saying only that Mars probably sent the masked man to recover the money she had won at Mars' expense.
    • Back in the car, Vivian expresses her attraction to Marlowe and kisses him. 
    • Although Marlowe enjoys the kiss, he won't be distracted from the task at hand, so he again asks Vivian what Mars has on her. He thinks that the holdup was all an act, maybe even staged to throw Marlowe off track. 
    • But Vivian becomes upset and refuses to answer.
    • Marlowe drops Vivian off at her house, and their conversation again ends on a bad note.
  • Chapter 24

    • Marlowe returns to his apartment and smells a woman's perfume in the air. Lying in his bed is none other than Carmen Sternwood. Naked. Again. 
    • It's not a bad night for Mr. Marlowe, or as he sarcastically puts it, "The Sternwood girls were giving me both barrels that night" (24.15). Um, ew?
    • The manager had let Carmen in because she claimed that Marlowe wanted her to wait for him in his apartment.
    • Marlowe walks over to his chessboard and moves his knight. The sound of Carmen's giggling grates on his nerves (and ours).
    • In a repeat of his behavior toward Vivian, Marlowe also refuses Carmen's flirtations and tells her to get dressed. He looks down again at the chessboard and realizes that he had made the wrong move with his knight. 
    • Carmen begins to make the strange hissing noise again as Marlowe continues to insist that she put her clothes on. She doesn't begin dressing herself until Marlowe threatens to throw her out in the hall naked.
    • When Carmen finally leaves in a huff, Marlowe looks in disgust at the imprint of her body on his bed and tears the sheets off angrily.
  • Chapter 25

    • The next morning, Marlowe wakes up feeling disgusted by women. It is raining yet again, and when Marlowe walks outside, he sees the gray Plymouth sedan that had been following him parked across the street. 
    • When he gets to his office building, Marlowe confronts the man in the Plymouth and says if he has something to tell him, he can go up to his office. Marlowe then storms off to his office to find a check for $500 from General Sternwood. 
    • Twenty minutes later, the buzzer rings and the little man from the Plymouth appears. We learn that his name is Harry Jones.
    • Jones claims to have information that he's willing to sell Marlowe for $200. Jones tells Marlowe that Mona didn't run off with Regan, but went into hiding so that everyone would think she had gone with Regan. 
    • Okay if that wasn't already confusing enough, let's add more plot twists: Jones says that he got this information from Joe Brody. Jones and Brody both work for Puss Walgreen, and apparently Brody was investigating the Regan and Mona connection to see if he could make money off it. During his snooping, Brody saw Mona in a car with Mars' gunman, Lash Canino. Jones concludes that this has to mean that Canino must know something about Regan's whereabouts.
    • Now here's the kicker. Apparently, Agnes recently saw Mona by coincidence and knows where Mona's hideout is (we think Jones knows Agnes through Brody). Jones says that as soon as Marlowe hands over the money, he'll take him to Agnes. Don't worry if you're still confused, so are we. It's kind of the point.
  • Chapter 26

    • At 7:00 that night, Marlowe heads over to Puss Walgreen's office to see Jones. He hears talking coming from the office, and listens quietly from the door.
    • Eavesdropping's a necessary skill when you're a detective.
    • Jones is being interrogated by Canino, who says Mars wants to know why he's been tailing Marlowe. Jones tells Canino that he's blackmailing Marlowe for money for Agnes' drug habit because he has information on Carmen's involvement in Brody's murder. Jones tries to convince Canino that his interactions with Marlowe have nothing to do with Mars.
    • Canino asks Jones for Agnes' address, and Jones eventually gives him the info. Before Canino leaves, he offers Jones a drink, but it's poisoned with cyanide. 
    • Marlowe waits until Canino is gone, and finds Jones' dead body on the office floor. 
    • Marlowe finds the phone book to confirm Agnes' address. It turns out that there is no Agnes at the address that Jones gave Canino. Marlowe admires Jones for not ratting out Agnes.
    • A few seconds later, the phone rings. It's Agnes. Marlowe tells Agnes that Canino came by and Jones got scared and ran. They set up a meeting to exchange money for the information on Mona Grant.
  • Chapter 27

    • Marlowe meets Agnes in a parking lot, where she tells him that Mona is hiding out east of Realito, in a house next to a small garage run by a man named Art Huck. There's a cyanide plant nearby, and the house is just off the highway.
    • Agnes had accidently discovered Mona's hideout one day when she and Brody were driving. They saw Canino in a car with Mona so they tailed her.
    • Marlowe drives toward the location described by Agnes. It's still raining. As Marlowe nears what looks like a small garage, his car runs over some tacks and he gets two flat tires. 
    • Not good. He sees a light coming from what he thinks is Art Huck's garage. Canino's car is in the driveway.
    • Pretending he needs new tires, Marlowe knocks on the garage door. Art reluctantly lets Marlowe inside, where Canino is waiting. 
    • Canino orders Art to go fix Marlowe's tires and then offers Marlowe a drink. There doesn't appear to be any cyanide in the glass, but when Marlowe isn't paying attention, Canino and Art attack him and Marlowe's knocked out cold. 
    • Fun project: Count the number of times that Marlowe has to resort to violence or is the victim of violence. Compare this to a detective like Sherlock Holmes, who rarely has to get down and dirty to solve a crime. Now imagine if Marlowe and Holmes had to join forces on a case, who'd solve it first? Pretty mind-blowing, right?
  • Chapter 28

    • When Marlowe comes to, he finds that he has been tied up and handcuffed. A woman is sitting beside him and we learn that she is Eddie Mars' wife, Mona Grant. She has striking platinum-colored hair and it's pretty clear Marlowe thinks she's a looker. 
    • When Marlowe remarks on her hair, Mona pulls it off saying it's a wig: she had cut off her hair to prove to Eddie that she was willing to hide out and not cause trouble. Marlowe starts calling her Silver-Wig. Some nickname.
    • Marlowe accuses Mars of being involved in a murder, but Silver-Wig defends Mars because she's still in love with him. She also assures Marlowe that her husband didn't kill Regan. 
    • She frees Marlowe from the ropes, but doesn't have the key to unlock the handcuffs. 
    • Fearing for her safety, Marlowe asks Mona to come with him, but she turns him down. 
    • Before he leaves, Marlowe plants one on her (settle down, buddy), but her lips are as cold as ice.
  • Chapter 29

    • Marlowe runs out of the house into the rain toward the highway. He finds that his car has been repaired by Canino and his henchman so that it can be used later as the getaway car. Marlowe grabs his gun from the car and heads back to the house.
    • Instead of waiting to let Silver-Wig explain to Canino what happened, Marlowe tries to lure Canino outside by turning on the car ignition (Canino unwisely left his keys inside the car). Marlowe leaves the engine running, but gets out of the car, knowing that Canino will shoot at the car.
    • Canino fires six times at the car and Marlowe pretends to scream out in pain. Canino sends Silver-Wig out to see if Marlowe's still alive. She lies and says she can see Marlowe's dead body behind the wheel.
    • Silver-Wig succeeds in fooling Canino, who lets down his guard, and Marlowe manages to shoot and kill him. Want to see how this gunfight plays out on the big screen? Your wish is Shmoop's command.
  • Chapter 30

    • Back at the Missing Persons Bureau, Marlowe's talking to Captain Gregory about Rusty Regan. We find out that Marlowe did in fact get in trouble with police for taking matters into his own hands. Marlowe tells Gregory that he's done with the case, but he leaves feeling as if the Captain is keeping something from him.
    • Marlowe is unable to sleep that night and can't stop thinking of Silver-Wig. We think someone has a crush.
    • In the morning, the phone rings and Norris is calling to request that Marlow come over to see the General, whose health is failing rapidly.
    • During their conversation, the General seems to feel that Marlowe has betrayed him since he had never asked Marlowe to locate Regan. When Marlowe assures the General that he's done with the case, the General offers him an extra $1000 to find Regan.
    • General Sternwood says that his reasons are personal: he doesn't mind so much that Regan had left his daughter, but he has a genuine affection for him and just wants to know that he's all right. 
    • Marlowe agrees to do what he can to help.
  • Chapter 31

    • Marlowe's leaving the Sternwood house when he sees Carmen. He returns her gun to her, and Carmen flirtatiously asks him to teach her how to shoot.
    • Marlowe asks to hold onto the gun until they reach the location where they can practice shooting.
    • Following Carmen's directions, Marlowe drives them to an empty foothill ranch full of rusty oil pumps. The place feels lonely and eerie, like an old graveyard.
    • Marlowe hands the gun to Carmen and sets up tin cans to use as target practice. 
    • When he turns around, Carmen has the gun pointed directly at his chest and begins hissing. She pulls the trigger. Collective gasp!
    • A shot is fired, but Marlowe is unharmed. Carmen fires several more times from a distance of about six feet, but Marlowe's still unhurt. Ah, he loaded the gun with blanks, the clever guy.
    • Carmen begins to have an epileptic fit, froth appearing at the corners of her mouth. Marlowe catches her just as she's about to faint. She's already unconscious by the time Marlowe lifts her up.
  • Chapter 32

    • Marlowe drives Carmen back home, where he meets with Vivian and relates the events that have just transpired.
    • Marlowe tells Vivian that Carmen had tried to kill him, just like she had killed Regan. Putting together all the pieces of the puzzle, Marlowe explains that Regan had rejected Carmen (just as he'd done), and we all know by now that Carmen can't handle rejection. Marlowe concludes that Vivian had to pay off Canino to dispose of Regan's body, using the $15,000 that Regan always carried around with him.
    • Vivian finally confesses that Marlowe's right. She reveals that Regan is buried in an oil sump. When Vivian discovered that her sister had killed Regan, she covered up the murder to protect Carmen and, more importantly, to keep Regan's death from her father, who would have been devastated to know the truth.
    • Marlowe insists that Carmen is mentally ill and needs to be hospitalized. He says that he'll give Vivian three days to get out of town, or else he'll inform officials about the events.
    • As Marlowe drives off down the hill, he reflects on the nastiness of life and how the only way to escape life is through death, what he calls the "big sleep." He thinks of Silver-Wig, who he never sees again.