A chance meeting with Moose Malloy, a recently-released convict who is trying to find out what happened to his old sweetheart Velma, gets Marlowe tangled up in another dangerous situation. While he tries to figure out what became of Velma, he also gets hired to deal with a jewelry theft.
It was adapted to film in 1942 (as The Falcon Takes Over, a Dolled-Up Installment of the Falcon film series starring George Sanders), 1944 (as Murder, My Sweet, with Dick Powell as Marlowe) and 1975 (as Farewell, My Lovely, with Robert Mitchum as Marlowe).
This novel contains examples of:
- Affably Evil: For much of the middle of the novel, we hear about Laird Brunette, a gang boss who has the mayor and most of the city administration in his pocket. When Marlowe finally makes contact with Brunette, it turns out he has almost nothing to do with the case; he has bought the mayor, mainly because it's more efficient than paying off a bunch of different officials individually, but he just wants to keep his casino from being raided, and doesn't otherwise interfere in local affairs. He's actually sort of helpful to Marlowe.
- All for Nothing: Velma/Mrs. Grayle would have probably only had to tell Philip Marlowe she didn't want to be found by Moose and he would have happily taken care of him for her. Moose was, after all, a murderer by that point and Philip has a white knight complex. Her multiple murders to conceal herself were thus completely needless.
- Color-Coded Eyes: One of the things about Red Norgaard that attracts Marlowe's attention is his eyes. "He had the eyes you never see, that you only read about. Violet eyes. Almost purple."
- Deadpan Snarker: Marlowe.
- Death Equals Redemption: In the final chapter, when an on-the-run Velma gets identified in Baltimore, she fatally shoots the police officer who identified her, and then herself. Marlowe speculates that she realized escape was no longer an option, so she killed herself to spare her husband, Mr. Grayle, the indignity of a drawn-out murder trial.
- Dissimile: A lot of the analogies in Marlowe's narration describe things by comparing them to things they aren't, such as his description of Moose Malloy as "a big man but not wider than a beer truck", or the Grayle mansion as "smaller than Buckingham Palace".
- Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: Marlowe mostly smokes cigarettes, but he smokes a pipe while talking to Anne Riordan in his office. He narrates that he can tell it reassures her because it signifies he's a solid respectable person, and that she's going to be disappointed: he's not that respectable, and he went for the pipe mainly because lighting it up gave him something to fiddle with while he was thinking.
- Does Not Know His Own Strength: When Jessie Florian is found dead, it's pretty obvious that Moose Malloy did the deed, but Marlowe suspects it wasn't completely intentional. Specifically, Malloy tried to question her about Velma's whereabouts, then when she lied to him, he tried to choke and beat the truth out of her—only he used more force than he realized.
- Friend on the Force: Lieutenant Randall isn't very friendly when they first meet, and mostly just wants Marlowe out of his hair, but they come to respect each other's intelligence and develop a working relationship by the end of the novel.
- Funetik Aksent: The accent of Amthor's secretary is rendered phonetically."But he ees ver-ry beesy. When you weesh to see him?"
- Hidden in Plain Sight: Moose Malloy is looking for his red-haired sweetheart Velma, who either died or skipped town while he was in prison after being framed. Come the finale, it's revealed that Mrs. Grayle (Marlowe's employer for his second, seemingly irrelevant case) is actually a disguised Velma, and was responsible for framing Moose, murdering Lin Marriott, and attacking Marlowe previously; in other words, the book's damsel in distress was actually the villain disguised as the moll.
- I Need a Freaking Drink: Marlowe narrates:I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun.
- I Never Said It Was Poison: Played with. During Marlowe's second meeting with Anne Riordan, he's instantly suspicious when she mentions the missing jade necklace, because he's been careful not to tell her exactly what's missing. However, she turns out to have an innocent explanation for knowing about it.
- Lady Drunk: Jessie Florian, the widow of the former owner of Florian's nightclub, now living in a rundown house and constantly intoxicated.
- Lemony Narrator: Marlowe both unconventionally describes people and isn't above Leaning on the Fourth Wall, as in this example from when Marlowe wakes up on the ground after being knocked unconscious:I got my chin scraped. It hurts. It feels scraped. That way I know it's scraped. No, I can't see it. I don't have to see it. It's my chin and I know whether it's scraped or not. Maybe you want to make something of it? Okay, shut up and let me think.
- Meaningful Echo: In the opening chapter, Marlowe finds himself standing outside a set of doors with something interesting happening on the other side. "It wasn't any of my business. So I pushed them open and looked in." Much later, having had a considerable amount of trouble as a result of that decision, Marlowe finds himself standing outside another door: "This was the time to leave, to go far away. So I pushed the door open and stepped quietly in."
- Noble Bigot with a Badge: Philip Marlowe ends up fulfilling this role himself, perhaps unintentionally, as he says several racist things in the book but is irritated with the police overlooking Moose's first murder of a black man.
- No Communities Were Harmed: Bay City, California, where the mayor and the police are in the pocket of organized crime, is Santa Monica with the names changed to protect the guilty.
- Nosy Neighbor: Mrs. Morrison, who lives next door to Jessie Florian and sees nearly everyone who comes and goes from that house. In her eagerness to gossip, she shares several important details about Mrs. Florian with Marlowe—then she clams up as soon as she realizes Marlowe's a drinker, too.
- Painting the Medium: Since all the Marlowe stories are narrated in the first person, Marlowe's mood and mental condition affect the tone of the writing. This is usually very subtle, but there's a passage in Farewell, My Lovely where Marlowe regains consciousness after an involuntary, days-long binge on needle drugs. The narration is downright surreal for a few chapters...to the point where he seems to be talking to the reader.
- Patchwork Story: Chandler took three of his short stories — "Try the Girl" (the hoodlum and his girlfriend), "Mandarin's Jade" (the jewelry theft), and "The Man Who Liked Dogs" (the sequence involving the offshore casino) — and wove them together to get the plot for the novel.
- Phony Psychic: Jules Amthor, Psychic Consultant (and con-man wanted on at least two different continents).
- Private Detective: Marlowe.
- Private Eye Monologue: Marlowe engages in this throughout the book, as befitting the Trope Codifier.
- Revealing Cover Up: Marlowe getting hired for the stolen necklace case turns out to be part of a plan by Velma to deal with him before he tracks her down. It doesn't work, and probably ends up as a net assist to Marlowe, because the necklace investigation gets him looking in places that he'd never have thought to look in connection with the Velma investigation.
- The Stoic: Though Marlowe does have his more human moments, these mainly occur when he's been truly pushed over the edge, as when he is kidnapped and shot full of narcotics by a quack doctor. The rest of the time, though, he manages to remain completely deadpan even as he's being beaten up by crooked cops or having guns waved in his face.
- Summation Gathering: Discussed at the end. Anne Riordan jokes that Marlowe should have invited all the suspects to a dinner party and laid everything out "in a phony English accent like Philo Vance", and the butler fainting dramatically at a key moment. Marlowe says it wasn't that kind of case.
- Suspect Is Hatless: Nulty thinks it'll be easy to catch Malloy, since he's a massive brute of a man in a very conspicuous suit. The police instead nab two other, similarly huge guys with no connection to the case, and they never do find Malloy.
- Take That!: Quite a few of Marlowe's insults are subtle jabs, sometimes at real people; for example, when a mook feels the need to repeat everything back at him, he starts referring to him as Hemingway:Mook: [confused] Who is this Hemingway person at all?
Marlowe: A guy who keeps saying the same thing over and over until you begin to believe it must be good.
- Taking You with Me: Lin Marriott is carrying three of Jules Amthor's business cards on him when he dies. They're rolled up inside the mouthpieces of marijuana cigarettes, and Marlowe can't figure out any practical purpose for hiding business cards in this manner. He concludes that Marriott suspected he was in danger and hid those business cards as a bit of revenge: ensuring that if he died, Amthor would get dragged into the investigation and his psychic scam exposed.
- Talks Like a Simile: A feature of Marlowe's narration. He gets off to a good start with his initial description of Moose Malloy:He was looking up at the dusty windows with a sort of ecstatic fixity of expression, like a hunky immigrant catching his first sight of the Statue of Liberty. He was a big man but not more than six feet five inches tall and not wider than a beer truck. [...] Even on Central Avenue, not the quietest dressed street in the world, he looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food.
- Tap on the Head: Happens quite often, sometimes accompanied by a lengthy and poetic description of darkness washing over him as he loses consciousness.
- Tonto Talk: A Mook named Second Planting shows up and engages in this. Marlowe doesn't buy it for a minute, finally telling him to "Skip the pig Latin". The mook's English improves, indicating he was faking most of it, but it's still a little broken.
- What Measure Is a Mook?: Marlowe has a moment of sympathy for a Mook he's just beaten up to escape:I was sorry for him. A simple hardworking little guy trying to hold his job down and get his weekly pay check. Maybe with a wife and kids. Too bad. And all he had to help him was a sap. It didnít seem fair.