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.
- Deadpan Snarker: Marlowe.
- Fixup Novel: 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Private Detective: Marlowe.
- Private Eye Monologue
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 didnt seem fair.