I must admit that I was in two minds about this book,but there is more in it than meets the eye.
It isn't the easiest book to read, not in the least through the language Chandler uses. The artificial constructed sentences describe the atmosphere, appearances and emotions. In fact, somewhat like a story board, for a film. In all honesty: this irritated me severely. But on the other hand, Chandlers writing style forced me to a closer, a slower paced reading, which had the effect of drawing me into the story, obviously.
On the surface the theme of the book is the ancient battle between good and evil. The good represented by the cynical detective Philip Marlowe, who seems to be the only person with morals and values in a corrupt world. It turns this though man into a Don Quichote; fighting the windmills. Or so it seems.
The evil is in the family of General Sternwood, in Carmen, the younger daughter, who does nasty things. She gets this compulsion when she is thwarted. And she gets away with it.
Her sister Vivian, who should have known better, covers for her as if she is an irresponsible child. It might be that Carmen has a disorder, but she literal gets away with murder.
On second thought, the theme of the book isn't between good and evil, but between evil and less evil. For in the end, the hero of the story becomes part of the corrupt society 'the great nastiness' himself.