Read: because the people voted for it. (Vintage, 208 pages, originally published 1934)
Rating: 8 out of 10 (finished 12/8/10)
Synopsis: Nick and Nora Charles are Hammett’s most enchanting creations, a rich, glamorous couple who solve homicides in between wisecracks and martinis. At once knowing and unabashedly romantic, The Thin Man is a murder mystery that doubles as a sophisticated comedy of manners.
Overall Impression: Ah, Nick and Nora. I absolutely love the relationship between these two — the witty banter, the backward compliments, the fact that she’s just as smart and capable as him. It’s all so delightful to read. Hammett is a master of dialogue and setting. His writing is somehow tight and loose at the same time. I love it.
Yet good lord — there is a LOT of alcohol in this book. Nick and Nora are pouring drinks at all hours of the day. They attend parties and drink alone. I think even the dog drinks. I’m not sure if alcoholism was a named thing back in 1934, but the two exhibit every sign of being hooked on the juice.
The plot of The Thin Man is excellent. Nick is dragged back into a homicide investigation after retiring, and he and Nora and an animated and toxic cast of characters work to figure out whodunit. The lies and the drama and the back stabbing are somehow bewitching — it’s easy to fall under the spell of each of the characters. The whole thing is darkly funny and a little bit sinister. I figured out what was going on pretty early on in the book, but it didn’t matter. It’s altogether a great read.
Pros: The dialogue between Nick and Nora is top-notch. Hammett is king at 1930s witty banter!
Cons: I think someone needs to call AA.
Other books I’ve read by Dashiell Hammett: The Maltese Falcon (review)
Other blogger opinions:
Book Chase: “…overall, I was disappointed in the book. Based on its reputation, I think that I expected too much.”
Between the Covers: “Another thing I like is that the female characters aren’t mild-mannered decoration — they plot extortion, send frying-pans flying, and try their own hand at sleuthing. Even the dog, Asta, doesn’t always like to behave.”
Of Books and Bikes: “I wanted a little more liveliness, a little more about the main character, and also a little more in the way of ideas.”