The Big Sleep? I'm not convinced.
Maybe it's because mystery's not my thing. But I think there's more to it than that.
For one, Raymond Chandler's style is almost Baroque. His sentences are overflowing with adjectives, most of them unnecessary. And my sense is he's written this way to fill the space: because without all that superfluous description, The Big Sleep would be a novella, a short story, even. But really, what's wrong with that? The Big Sleep would have been better had it been constructed as a novella: it would have packed a bigger (and more sustained) punch. As a novel, the story drags, and that's largely because of all the meaningless description: of cars, of rain, of women's stockings, of guns. In the end, it all fades away.
And there's more: Chandler can weave a story - OK, I'll give him that. But his characters become so painfully cliched: his women are scandalous and provocative, his detectives tough and hard drinking. Maybe they were deliberately two-dimensional, and maybe that was one of Chandler's goals: to invent these types. And so maybe I'm being a little hard. That said, I couldn't relate: to all the names, to all the intricacies, to all the adverbs. This was a vision of American about which Chandler could not, in the end, convience me to care. Sure, maybe the Sternwood daughters: maybe they interested me because of their brazen sexuality (a sexuality that reminded me, actually, of characters developed years later by the Coen brothers). Otherwise, I found the book predictable, which was an odd sensation given its pretense of complexity.
Still, there's one great line in this book, and I'll tip my hat to Chandler for it: "..It seemed a little too pat. It had the austere simplicity of fiction rather than the tangled woof of fact." Tangled woof of fact: that's tremendous!