Last Updated September 5, 2023.
The Long Goodbye is a detective fiction novel published in 1953, written by Raymond Chandler. Chandler produced several works--both short stories and novels--which feature Philip Marlowe as the protagonist. Marlowe is a private investigator, whose casual acquaintance Terry Lennox (who exhibits lurid and extravagant behavior) asks for a ride to Tijuana, Mexico. Marlowe learns only upon returning from this trip to his apartment that Lennox's wife has been found murdered. Marlowe is briefly held for complicit guilt in this murder, until Lennox himself is found dead in Mexico, having confessed to murdering his wife.
In a seemingly tangential plot, Marlowe is drawn into aiding one Roger Wade, a formerly successful writer, who is being kept in a facility for alcoholics. Roger's wife, Eileen, implores Marlowe to stay at their home on the pretext of keeping her husband sober; however, she soon makes clear her interest in seducing Marlowe.
Marlowe leaves the dysfunctional household, returning only briefly for casual visits with his friend, Roger. When Marlowe comes back and stays nearby the Wade household, Roger is found shot in his living room—an apparent suicide. An outside investigator proves to Wade that Eileen was responsible for killing her husband.
The evening after being confronted, Eileen also kills herself, having revealed to Marlowe and the other detective that Lennox was her former husband. She met him in San Fernando Valley by happenstance, after he was pronounced dead during World War II. Her suicide note also includes a confession of having killed Sylvia Lennox—a confession which Marlowe publishes to clear (the presumed dead) Terry Lennox's name.
A final plot twist occurs when Terry Lennox returns to California, sporting a new complexion as a result of plastic surgery (marking his third self-reinvention, of sorts). His death had been a ruse in order to lend credence to his confession. Chandler's novel has the plot complexity of a murder mystery with an outcome reminiscent of a Greek tragedy. It is hardly surprising that the novel was made into a film of the same name, produced in 1972.