The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Meh. I can’t describe what I didn’t like without a major spoiler. Suffice it to say the writing flowed easily and the main characters were likable enough, but the detective work began to get tedious. Hammett was a former Pinkerton detective, and I think he knew too much of the process. While the flow of investigative work was realistic enough, the repetition was tiresome. The ending kind of jumped out of the closet, so to speak, with few clues scattered about that would have led one to it.
So, although I enjoyed Hammett’s writing style tremendously, and his basic characterization, the “not very neat” ending, to paraphrase Nora Charles, left me unsatisfied. Yes, he tied up the case, but, meh.
Bottom line: If you like old detective stories, as I do, you’ll probably like this one; however, like me, you may be ready for it to be over by the end of the book.
P.S. The book and the movie are very different. The movie is wittier and more urbane, mostly due to William Powell and Myrna Loy. In addition, the way they staged the crime and the solution followed Hollywood traditions. The book does not. Finally, in the movie, Dorothy, played by Maureen O’Hara, is engaged and charming. In the book, she’s kind of a semi-slutty ditz. Don’t read the book looking for the movie. Conversely, since I read the book first, I turned the movie off after 30 minutes – the changes bugged me (plus, I found it free online).
One thought on “The Thin Ending”
I learned a long time ago that you don’t read Hammett for the story……… never. You read him for the style, the journey so to speak. The ‘story’ is just something to hang the characters on. I know it can be annoying but some of the best stories from that era are impossible to solve….. there are large pieces missing and impossible twists, but people still read them. If you want to be really confused read ‘Red Harvest’ which is from this ear. I have absolutely no idea what happened but I enjoyed the ride.
Which brings up an interesting question: is it possible to write a good detective novel where the story is straight forward but the style/characters are interesting?
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