A rich man asked Philip Marlowe to find his missing wife who presumably ran away to Mexico to get a divorce, but disappeared since then. The search quickly led the private detective to a dead body of another woman with seemingly no connection to the first one, except for them being neighbors. The number of dead bodies rapidly increases as Marlowe tries to get to the bottom of a very complicated mystery while dodging cold-blooded killers, corrupted cops (the level of corruption in Bay City seems to make that of Chicago during the Prohibition look pale and insignificant in comparison), or just people who like nothing more in their lives than to knock Marlowe out just for the fun of it.
I mentioned the complicated plot. This one would make Agatha Christie - the undisputed Queen of Complicated Mystery Plots - extremely envious. During my reading I had to stop several times just to make sure I have a clear picture of what is going on - as clear as Marlowe at the moment has. I really do not need to mention the quality of writing from the acknowledged Master of the genre, but I want to mention characterization. Raymond Chandler is really good at creating memorable characters with minimum amount of space; the best example of this would be Sheriff Patton who is more or less friendly towards Marlowe for a change - unlike the majority of policeman in the series.
One more fact need to be mentioned: as time went by Raymond Chandler became more disillusioned in his outlooks on life; his battle with alcohol addiction did not help either. As a result the latter books of the series are somewhat weaker than the first ones. This is probably the last book which fully deserves 5 solid stars. The recommendation for the book is just as usual: if you have even a passing interest in noir mysteries, this is THE series to read, but beware that the number of writers of the genre who approached this level of quality can be counted with fingers on one hand with some left to spare - you might spoil the genre for yourself if you start with Philip Marlowe cases.
This review is a copy/paste of my BookLikes one: http://gene.booklikes.com/post/923599/the-last-great-philip-marlowe-noir-mystery-before-the-decline-of-the-series