I’ve read The Big Sleep many times, but only just got around to reading this one. There is, apparently, a movie version of this as well, but not with Bogart and therefore I’m not sure what the point is.
Side note: If you are unfamiliar with the podcast “You Must Remember This” I cannot recommend it highly enough. I’m not caught up to the current season yet, I’m still in last season’s episodes on the blacklist, and the Bogart episode was so good. But really, all the episodes are so good. End side note.
In this book, Marlowe encounters a drunk man in the parking lot of an expensive club. His date drives off in the Rolls, leaving him in the parking lot and Marlowe rescues him. Later they reconnect and share the occasional drink and talk, but never really become intimate.
Which makes it a bit of surprise when Lennox–the drunk man–shows up on his doorstep early one morning holding a gun and asking for a ride to Mexico. Marlowe insists that Lennox tell him nothing–he’s familiar with the laws about accessories after the fact, after all–but suspects that Lennox may have shot his notoriously unfaithful wife.
He gets his friend to the airplane and later is picked up by the cops who want to know where Lennox is. He refuses to snitch and spends a few days in jail, before he’s released because Lennox wrote out a full confession and then killed himself in Mexico, so the case is closed and it’s all over.
Except that it’s not, really, because it’s all so unexpected. The wife wasn’t shot (she was, actually, but we don’t know that till much later) but had her face bashed in with a statuette, which is not really something anyone can believe Lennox would have done. And why would he go to Mexico, only to kill himself?
But everyone, including the dead woman’s very very rich father, wants the case to stay dead so he lets it go.
Then he’s hired by a couple named Wade. Wade’s a writer, who has suddenly turned into a serious drunk. He’s been violent with his wife in his drunken state and more importantly to everyone, he’s not writing and he’s on deadline for his next book. They want Marlowe to babysit him and ideally figure out what’s eating at him and turning him into a drunk. Marlowe refuses, but when Wade goes missing, he can’t resist the plea of the very lovely Mrs. Wade to find him. He does find him and from there they settle into an uneasy pattern where he is called over when there’s a crisis but he’s not really on the payroll or doing much to keep anything in check.
Until the night that he’s called over by Wade himself, who is drunk as hell, and eventually passes out on the sofa. He goes downstairs and waits for the wife to come home, and when she gets there they go back up to find that he’s been shot in the head. Suicide? Murder?
In true mystery novel fashion, the Wades are connected to the Lennoxes (they were neighbors and friends) and the death of Mr. Wade connects to the death of Mrs. Lennox.
These noir mysteries are so lovely, full of atmosphere and drama. Imagine Bogart as Marlowe while you read.