The Long Goodbye
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"The Long Goodbye" Summary

By Meghan O'Rourke

memoir | 380 pages | Published in 1988

The renowned novel from crime fiction master Raymond Chandler, with the "quintessential urban private eye" (Los Angeles Times), Philip Marlowe • Featuring the iconic character that inspired the film Marlowe, starring Liam Neeson. In noir master Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye, Philip Marlowe befriends a down on his luck war veteran with the scars to prove it. Then he finds out that Terry Lennox has a very wealthy nymphomaniac wife, whom he divorced and remarried and who ends up dead. And now Lennox is on the lam and the cops and a crazy gangster are after Marlowe.


Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

A private detective becomes entangled in a web of deception and corruption while investigating the suicide of a friend.


In this book summary, we delve into the gripping world of "The Long Goodbye" written by Raymond Chandler. This classic crime novel takes readers on a thrilling journey through the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles in the 1940s. Chandler masterfully weaves a complex web of deception, corruption, and iconic detective work, keeping readers on the edge of their seats from beginning to end. With its vivid setting, memorable characters, and thought-provoking themes, "The Long Goodbye" has captivated readers for decades.

Brief Synopsis

"The Long Goodbye" follows the life of private detective Philip Marlowe as he becomes embroiled in a series of interconnected mysteries. The novel is set in Los Angeles, during the post-World War II era, where the glamour of Hollywood clashes with the darker side of humanity. Chandler's gritty portrayal of the city and its inhabitants lends an authentic and atmospheric backdrop to the story.

Marlowe, the quintessential hard-boiled detective, becomes entangled in a friendship with Terry Lennox, an enigmatic war veteran. As the plot unfolds, Marlowe finds himself caught between conflicting loyalties and the search for the truth. When Lennox is accused of his wife's murder, Marlowe becomes determined to clear his name, leading him into a complex and dangerous investigation.

Throughout the novel, Marlowe encounters a cast of memorable characters, from the seductive and manipulative Eileen Wade to the ruthless gangster Roger Wade. As the lines between friend and foe blur, Marlowe must navigate the treacherous landscape of betrayal, corruption, and deceit.

Main Events

Main Events
Marlowe meets Terry Lennox, a troubled war veteran
Lennox is accused of murdering his wife and seeks Marlowe's help
Marlowe helps Lennox escape to Mexico
Marlowe meets Eileen Wade, a manipulative woman who leads him to Roger Wade
Marlowe discovers that Eileen has been manipulating Roger
Marlowe uncovers a blackmail scheme involving Roger's wife
Roger is killed, and Marlowe is framed for the murder
Marlowe digs deeper into the corruption and uncovers shocking truths
Marlowe unravels the web of deceit and brings the culprits to justice

Main Characters

Philip Marlowe

A cynical and hard-edged private detective, Marlowe serves as the protagonist of the novel. He possesses a strong sense of justice and a shrewd intellect. Marlowe's moral compass sets him apart from the corruption and immorality he encounters in his investigations.

Terry Lennox

A troubled war veteran and Marlowe's friend, Lennox becomes the central figure in the novel's mysteries. His enigmatic personality and connection to Marlowe creates a bond that drives the narrative forward.

Eileen Wade

A seductive and manipulative woman, Eileen becomes intertwined with Marlowe's investigations. Her cunning and ability to manipulate those around her add depth to the complex web of deception.

Roger Wade

A famous writer struggling with alcoholism, Wade's vulnerability makes him a prime target for manipulation. Marlowe's interactions with Wade shed light on the corrupt world of Hollywood and its impact on the lives of its inhabitants.

Themes and Insights

Corrupting Power of Money

Throughout "The Long Goodbye," Chandler explores the theme of the corrupting power of money. The opulent lifestyle of the rich and famous in Los Angeles often comes at a high price, leading to greed, deceit, and moral decay. The characters' insatiable desire for wealth and status drives them to commit unthinkable acts.

Loss of Identity

Marlowe, Lennox, and other characters in the novel grapple with a loss of identity. The aftermath of war and the allure of Hollywood often strip individuals of their true selves, leaving them adrift in a world of facades and illusions. Chandler provides a stark critique of a society that values appearances over authenticity.

Moral Ambiguity

"The Long Goodbye" presents a morally complex world where the lines between right and wrong are blurred. Marlowe, while steadfast in his own ethical framework, is confronted with characters who embody moral ambiguity. Chandler challenges readers to question their own perceptions of morality and the choices they would make in the face of corruption.

Reader's Takeaway

"The Long Goodbye" is a gripping and atmospheric crime novel that explores the dark underbelly of Los Angeles. Chandler's atmospheric writing style brings the post-war era to life, immersing readers in a complex web of mysteries and deceptions. The morally ambiguous characters and thought-provoking themes make this novel a timeless read that continues to captivate audiences.


"The Long Goodbye" is a masterful crime novel that paints a vivid picture of the social, moral, and political landscape of Los Angeles in the 1940s. Raymond Chandler's writing prowess shines through as he intricately weaves a tale of corruption, deceit, and the indomitable spirit of justice. With its memorable characters, atmospheric setting, and insightful themes, "The Long Goodbye" remains a must-read for fans of crime fiction and literary enthusiasts alike.

The Long Goodbye FAQ

  1. What is 'The Long Goodbye' about?

    'The Long Goodbye' is a detective novel written by Raymond Chandler. It follows private detective Philip Marlowe as he investigates the complex case of a privileged young woman and her involvement with a troubled writer.

  2. Who is the author of 'The Long Goodbye'?

    The author of 'The Long Goodbye' is Raymond Chandler, a renowned American crime novelist and screenwriter.

  3. Is 'The Long Goodbye' a standalone book or part of a series?

    'The Long Goodbye' is part of the Philip Marlowe series. However, it can be enjoyed as a standalone novel as well.

  4. When was 'The Long Goodbye' first published?

    'The Long Goodbye' was first published in 1953.

  5. Are there any film adaptations of 'The Long Goodbye'?

    Yes, 'The Long Goodbye' has been adapted into a film. It was directed by Robert Altman and released in 1973.

  6. Does 'The Long Goodbye' belong to any specific genre?

    'The Long Goodbye' is categorized as a hardboiled crime fiction novel.

  7. How long is 'The Long Goodbye'?

    The length of 'The Long Goodbye' varies depending on the edition, but it is typically around 350 pages.

  8. What is the setting of 'The Long Goodbye'?

    The story primarily takes place in Los Angeles, California, during the 1950s.

  9. What are some similar books to 'The Long Goodbye'?

    Readers who enjoyed 'The Long Goodbye' might also enjoy other classic noir detective novels such as 'The Maltese Falcon' by Dashiell Hammett and 'The Big Sleep' by Raymond Chandler.

  10. Is 'The Long Goodbye' suitable for all audiences?

    'The Long Goodbye' contains mature themes and some violence, so it is recommended for adult readers.