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The Big Sleep and “Trouble is my Business” Raymond Chandler

Analysis and comparison


The plots in Chandler’s stories are very convoluted. The main mystery of the story is not revealed from the start. It stays ambiguous throughout the story until the end when the detective gives the big reveal. It starts with a simple case given to the private detective which seems to be straightforward but becomes more complex as the story is unveiled. These cases were finding who is blackmailing the Sternwoods in The Big Sleep and making sure that Jeeter’s son does not marry Huntress in “Trouble is my Business.” As the detective tries to solve the case and uncovers more details, the plot thickens. Comparing this style of writing to “The Puzzle Game,” it seems like the story is going backwards. Christie and Penny’s stories start with introducing the characters, a defined puzzle that has to be solved, with victim(s) and a concise list of suspects. Chandler starts off simple and increases in complexity as the victim counter increases and the suspect list just gets longer and longer.

· There are many characters and the relationships and conflicts between them can cause some difficulty in following the plot. In fact, the story is built more on characters and rich language than plot. In “Trouble Is My Business,” Philip Marlowe is hired by another private detective, Anna Halsey, who was hired by a rich man, Gerald Jeeter Sr. to “discourage” the relationship between his adopted son Gerald Jeeter Jr and Harriett Huntress, a woman with connections to Marty Estel, a gambler who is owed money by Gerald Jeeter Jr. As his investigation unfolds, Marlowe meets with characters from the high and low social classes from around LA, and seems equally at ease interacting with them all. He gets knocked around many times but perseveres, wisecracking all the way, until some form of justice has been served.

· Christie focuses on whodunit while Chandler doesn’t really care about the plot, it’s more about creating an intricate environment. He believes that life is messy, and we don’t always understand a motive or why somethings happened.

· Chandler’s stories are more about cause and effect and play with the reader’s understanding of human nature. Instead of resolving the murder, it’s about how the characters react to their own misfortunes. (Marlowe: could have brought in Carmen and Vivian but he didn’t because of his weakness for women and how he doesn’t believe in the justice system) (Vivian: goes to extreme lengths to protect her sister from the shame of her pornographic images) (thug wanting to kill Marlowe because he believes Marlowe killed his brother Frisky (285).)

· Both of Chandler’s stories start with an old rich guy who needs a problem solved and when Marlowe starts to investigate, the crimes get complicated, bodies begin to drop, and Marlowe is driven to run after these criminals and figure out what’s happened.

· Christie is known to avoid blood, gruesome details, and violence. However, Marlowe is often beaten up (violence) and the deaths are either shown to us or described. (description of Arbogast’s body stiff and dead on his office floor (259), Frisky’s murder in the road.)

· Chandler has no use for fair play because he doesn’t care about solving the crime into a nice little gift box. He doesn’t use clues (physical or psychological) as the story is more about following the exciting adventures of the daring detective as he shoots, threatens, and fights his way through the messy crimes. At the end of the stories, we are still confused about the whodunit, and eventhe why-dunit


Chandler’s stories starring Philip Marlowe are set all over the Greater Los Angeles Area. The common places were his office, his own apartment, his client’s house, and the crime scenes. The author constantly refers to Los Angeles, describing its streets and facades while driving. Marlowe knows all parts of the city well, es evident in his vivid descriptions, and that he found his way home even after consuming almost a full bottle of Harriett Huntress’ fine Scotch! It is also the perfect setting since this city historically contained many mobsters and gambling dens. Louise Penny’s use of the setting, “puzzle-game” style, is quite dissimilar to that of Chandler’s. She makes it an essential part of the story where it would not be the same if it happened anywhere else. It is also limited to a single closed place and time where the crime scenes are all in the same general area with a limited number of suspects. Marlowe has to run around the city all the time as the action occurs all over and new characters/suspects keep appearing.


The Big Sleep and “Trouble is my Business” have an extensive list of characters and most of them are secondary characters that are used to progress the story. The main characters, being Philip Marlowe, Viviane Sternwood, and Harriet Huntress, are still the focus. Many secondary characters come and go, either killed off or become irrelevant to the case. Philip Marlowe is portrayed as a tough private detective who does not care about his client’s immediate demands but has a personal code of honour which keeps the client’s anonymity, and he does not stop until he feels justice is served. He often gets beaten up because he does not let cases go. Marlowe is described as hard boiled: he is cool, smart and world weary. The world he lives in is mean, filled with dangerous individuals. He often uses humor to either lighten a mood or insult someone, and this becomes evident when describing members of the upper class that are involved in the murder since they frequently get away with it. He comes off as tough and is not afraid to get physical when he has to, but seems to prefer if he could just use his brains rather than violence. Marlowe knows his way around the upper classes of society, the police force, and also the criminal world. Through the attitudes of Philip Marlowe, Chandler presents his disdain for the greed and callousness of the upper class.

· Chandler’s detective gets entangled with the personal lives of the suspects so that the reader may understand the nature of the characters. We learn about grieving men, protective women, greedy gamblers and everyone in between. He follows the case by interacting with characters personally and often getting caught in the drama of everyday life. However, Christie and Penny’s detectives seem to take a step back from the messiness of a person’s individual story. They seem to follow the case calmly and learn clues through hints left behind and interactions observed by the detective rather than interactions the detective has been involved with.

· Christie and Penny have a strong sense of justice and order. Their detectives are professionals who act respectfully and with a sense of dignity. Chandler’s detective Marlowe has a twisted moral compass but one that he believes in firmly. Although he fights and murders, he has this sense of honour. (He wants to save Vivian and Carmen from prosecution, he usually tells the truth)

· Marlowe gets involved in things that are not his problem. (Vivian pays him off but he continues detecting) while Gamache and Poirot are on vacation trying to get away from their detective jobs but end up caught in the middle of a murder.

The author uses elements of imagery, metaphoric connections and descriptive narration to give the readers further insight on each character (which helps the reader keep track of them all). For example, Anna is described as a 240 lb middle aged woman in a suit. As well, John D. Arbogast’s character is described enormously fat with his face the size of a basketball.

In “The Puzzle Game” style of detective stories, all of the characters are already presented from the very start, meaning that the list of suspects are set as soon as the murder occurs. However, a murder in Chandler’s stories is just more confusing as no one knows who did it, it might be a character who was not yet presented. Other than the police coming after the crime occurs in A Rule against Murder, all of the important characters were already present and the suspect list is set in stone, allowing Penny to further develop each character.

Narrative Point of View

Chandler’s use of first-person point of view allows the readers to connect closely to the narrator’s thoughts, feelings, and knowledge. The point of view furnishes clues as to what the purpose of the story is. It hints to the readers that the first-person narrator, Philip Marlowe, is the one who will figure out the mystery. However, in contrast to Penny’s use of a third-person narrator that allows the readers to hear many characters’ private thoughts and learn motives that the detective is unaware of, with Chandler the reader knows only as much as Marlowe knows but puts the case together with him as he goes.


The greed and callousness of the upper classes as well as the corruption of society are evident in Chandler’s stories. The power of money and pure greed removes one’s sense of humanity.

In Penny’s mystery the murder is for revenge. However, even though the maître d’ committed murder to take revenge on Martin for ruining his father, he still saves Gamache and Bean from certain death, showing that there is still some hope somewhere. This hope is also present in Chandler’s works: there is hope that Carmen will get the help she needs, and that Harriet Huntress finds solace in justice being served with Jeeter unable to enjoy his riches.

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