Chapter Twenty-Four (Opening Paragraph)
By Raymond Chandler

The apartment house lobby was empty this time. No gunman waiting under the potted palm to give me orders. I took the automatic elevator up to my floor and walked along the hallway to the tune of a muted radio behind a door. I needed a drink and was in a hurry to get one. I didn’t switch the light on inside the door. I made straight for the kitchenette and brought up short in three or four feet. Something was wrong. Something on the air, a scent. The shades were down at the windows, and the streetlight leaking in at the sides made a dim light in the room. I stood still and listened. The scent on the air was a perfume, a heavy cloying perfume.

ABOUT THE NOVEL: Published in 1939, The Big Sleep is a hardboiled crime novel by Raymond Chandler, the first to feature detective Philip Marlowe. The book has been adapted twice into film, once in 1946 and again in 1978. The story, set in Los Angeles, is noted for its complexity, with many characters double-crossing one another and many secrets exposed throughout the narrative. In 1999, the book was voted one of the ”100 Books of the Century” by French newspaper Le Monde. In 2005, it was included in “TIME’s List of the 100 Best Novels.” (Read more at