The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
An inventor goes missing and his mistress winds up dead. Former detective Nick Charles wants nothing to do with the case but keeps getting drawn in. With his plucky wife Nora, can Nick get things sorted out so he can get back to his drinking?
The Thin Man was not at all like I expected. After reading the exploits of Sam Spade and the Continental Op, I expected more of the same. The Thin Man is much more humorous than Hammett's earlier works and I found myself liking it quite a bit.
Nick Charles, former detective, is quite a character. He's smart, sharp witted, and he likes the sauce. He's such a raging alcoholic that Matthew Scudder and Nick Stefanos once staged an intervention for him BEFORE they got off the sauce. "Nick, we like week-long benders as much as the next guy but you might have a problem..."
His wife, Nora, sticks by her man, even if he probably smells like a distillery most of the time due to all the alcohol he consumes. The one-liners each of them fire off are infinitely more interesting than the plot. I'm pretty sure the plot is only here for Nick and Nora to bounce lines around and give them something to do between drinks.
The writing is top notch for the era as well. As always, once I forgave Hammett for not being Raymond Chandler, it was off to the races. Quotable lines abound:
“Nora: "How do you feel?"
Nick: "Terrible. I must've gone to bed sober.”
“Nick: "Don't you think maybe a drink would help you to sleep?"
Nora: "No, thanks."
Nick: "Maybe it would if I took one.”
The plot was suitably serpentine and the interplay between Nick and Nora kept me engaged throughout. The rapid-fire dialogue was by far my favorite part of the book. Didn't Nick and Nora's dynamic in The Thin Man inspire J.D. Robb's In Death series? It's a shame Hammett didn't write more Nick and Nora books. Four stars.
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