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Glass Key [Audio Cassette]

Dashiell Hammett , William Dufris
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 26 2001 Isis
Paul Madvig was a cheerfully corrupt ward-heeler who aspired to something better: the daughter of Senator Ralph Bancroft Henry, the heiress to a dynasty of political purebreds. Did he want her badly enough to commit murder? And if Madvig was innocent, which of his dozens of enemies was doing an awfully good job of framing him? Dashiell Hammett’s tour de force of detective fiction combines an airtight plot, authentically venal characters, and writing of telegraphic crispness. A one-time detective and a master of deft understatement, Dashiell Hammett virtually invented the hard-boiled crime novel.
--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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"Hammett's prose was clean and entirely unique. His characters were as sharply and economically defined as any in American fiction. His gift of invention never tempted him beyond the limits of credibility."

-- The New York Times --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

"Hammett's prose was clean and entirely unique. His characters were as sharply and economically defined as any in American fiction. His gift of invention never tempted him beyond the limits of credibility."

-- The New York Times

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A change of pace for Hammett July 23 2002
This time around, the main character is not a detective, but a gambler with political friends & enemies, one friend in particular. While there is a dead body early in the story, this protagonist doesn't seem all that interested in who the murderer is until the pivotal scene when he gets severely beaten for not turning on his former friend who he's temporarily on the outs with.
I've noticed this plot gimmick more than once in Hammett. The rascally characters bring the protagonist's wrath upon them by needlessly attacking him. That happened in one of the shorter Continental Op stories and then again in Red Harvest and now in this one. One could put The Maltese Falcon in that class also.
Personally, I had trouble liking the characters until that pivotal scene, and then only did I get involved with them. So I do feel that this had the weakest opening of Hammett's major works. However, once one gets through the first part, it becomes as riveting as any of Hammett's.
So I do very much recommend this one along with Hammett's other books.
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"The Glass Key" is probably Dashiell Hammett's best-constructed novel. Our detective this time is not a professional sleuth, but Ned Beaumont, a sharp, tough, unglamorous, right-hand man to Paul Madvig, a powerful corrupt-as-the-next-guy businessman with political ambitions. Paul intends to win an upcoming city election and marry a Senator's daughter. But only a few weeks before the election, Taylor Henry, the Senator's son and brother of Paul's intended, is found murdered in the street. The police are desperate to solve this high-profile case. The city's various political forces are inclined to use Taylor Henry's death to leverage the upcoming election. Information is power, and whoever knows the identity of the murderer may control the election. Paul Madvig's now-precarious influence appoints Ned Beaumont as special investigator for the District Attorney's Office, and the newly-credentialed Ned sets out to sort out the murder before it sorts out the power structure in this unnamed Depression-era city.
"The Glass Key" explores the interdependent cultures of politics, industry, and news media, which combine to thoroughly immerse the city in corruption. As much as I admire Hammett's themes and enjoy his stories, I've never considered the stories, themselves, to be plausible. I wouldn't have much trouble believing that the characters or events described in "The Glass Key" could actually have existed, though. This is the most grounded in realism of any of Hammett's novels, and it's the most tightly written. The novel is evenly paced and, like its protagonist Ned Beaumont, is spare, focused, and direct in its purpose. Despite the story's third-person narration that never reveals anyone's thoughts or emotions, the characters are well-drawn and never flat.
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I was bowled over by this one. Oddly laconic with some rather awkward turns of phrase (he did it "difficultly"?!!), the writing, nevertheless, is nearly airtight and so sharply laid down that it carries and sets the mood beautifully in this strange tale of a political boss and his gambler buddy who are bent on winning their particular games of life. Paul Madvig, the boss, wants to win the upcoming elections and ensure continuation of his candidates in office while Ned Beaumont, the lone-wolf gambler, wants to get back on a winning streak, collect on a bad debt and protect his apparently dense friend Madvig who has stumbled into a situation. Madvig is in love with a senator's daughter and keen to win her hand and so has allowed his usual good judgement to become clouded. In shifting his political support to the senator, he has lost touch with his own less-than-respectable base, allowing a local gangster to muscle in on his territory. Intent on pushing the gangster back, he makes a dumb play and is soon sucked into a problem surrounding the unsolved murder of the senator's son. Who did it and why are the questions that lie at the core of Madvig's problems and only Beaumont is clever enough, and cares enough, to get to the bottom of it. Along the way Beaumont takes a bloody beating, participates in a murder and loses what he cares most for in all the world. Although the tale takes a while to get revved up and some of the transitions are so abrupt as to be jarring, this was not only a great "detective" story but one with real resonance that goes well beyond the genre in which it has been cast. I recently read Chandler's The Big Sleep and thought very highly of it, giving it five amazon stars. Well, this one's even better. -- SWM
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Primer on Local Politics Aug. 30 2001
By A Customer
This novel is about politics, his only work that doesn't deal with the hard-boiled detective that he invented. But Ned Beaumont (nee Schoenberg?) gets fixed up as a special investigator to look into the murder of the Senator's son. Ned tracks down the bookmaker who welshed and skipped town, and uses "the hat trick" to claim his winnings; money is power. Afterwards he acts like a private detective as well as a political crony. Disagreeing with Paul Madvig, he meets Shad O'Rory; Shad tries bribery and torture to get Ned to betray his friend Paul. Ned escapes this trap, and helps to solve the murder of an eye-witness. In telling this, the book shows how a newspaper can slant the news: "they wouldn't print it if it wasn't true"!
This novel seems to be a variation on Hammett's detective stories, using "politics" as the "root of evil". But there is a relationship between political power and the love of money. This book shows government functioning as a feudal system: a ruler accepts loyalty from his subjects, and in turn helps and supports them. But the ruler may accept an election loss if that will punish disloyalty and keep his personal power. Could a blue-blooded aristocratic politician sacrifice his son, pimp his daughter, and attempt murder to keep political power? You can judge how this novel approximates the real world. (The book mentions that New York is a train ride away; does this imply Albany or Philadelphia?)
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