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The Thin Man [Paperback]

Dashiell Hammett
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 17 1989 Vintage Crime/Black Lizard
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.

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The Thin Man + The Maltese Falcon
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The Thin Man, Dashiell Hammett's classic tale of murder in Manhattan, became the popular movie series with William Powell and Myrna Loy, and both the movies and the novel continue to captivate new generations of fans.

Nick and Nora Charles, accompanied by their schnauzer, Asta, are lounging in their suite at the Normandie in New York City for the Christmas holiday, enjoying the prerogatives of wealth: meals delivered at any hour, theater openings, taxi rides at dawn, rubbing elbows with the gangster element in speakeasies. They should be annoyingly affected, but they charm. Mad about each other, sardonic, observant, kind to those in need, and cool in a fight, Nick and Nora are graceful together, and their home life provides a sanctuary from the rough world of gangsters, hoodlums, and police investigations into which Nick is immediately plunged.

A lawyer-friend asks Nick to help find a killer and reintroduces him to the family of Richard Wynant, a more-than-eccentric inventor who disappeared from society 10 years before. His former wife, the lush and manipulative Mimi, has remarried a European fortune hunter who turns out to be a vindictive former associate of her first husband and is bent on the ruin of Wynant's family fortune. Wynant's children, Dorothy and Gilbert, seem to have inherited the family aversion to straight talk. Dorothy, who has matured into a beautiful young woman, has a crush on Nick, and so, in a hero-worshipping way, does mama's boy Gilbert. Nick and Nora respond kindly to their neediness as Nick tries to make sense of misinformation, false identities, far-fetched alibis, and, at the center of the confusion, the mystery of The Thin Man, Richard Wynant. Is he mad? Is he a killer? Or is he really an eccentric inventor protecting his discovery from intellectual theft?

The dialogue is spare, the locales lively, and Nick, the narrator, shows us the players as they are, while giving away little of his own thoughts. No one is telling the whole truth, but Nick remains mostly patient as he doggedly tries to backtrack the lies. Hammett's New York is a cross between Damon Runyon and Scott Fitzgerald--more glamorous than real, but compelling when visited in the company of these two charmers. The lives of the rich and famous don't get any better than this! --Barbara Schlieper


Harsh lights and romantic black shadows: this is the heyday of American crime writing Guardian The ace performer Raymond Chandler --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thin man, good book April 17 2004
The last of Dashiell Hammett's novels was "The Thin Man," and what a last novel it is. A hard-edged whodunnit, Hammett's writing had become very polished and his characters even more intricate by the time he wrote this, and while it's not the best he had written, it's a solid example of his work.
Nick Charles was a rough'n'tough detective... until he married wealthy socialite Nora. Now he's retired early, drinks a lot, and has no apparent wish to come into contact with his messy past life. Enter Dorothy Wynant, daughter of weird (and possibly insane) inventor Clyde Wynant. As it happens, Wynant's secretary/mistress has just been murdered, and was found dying by his ex-wife Mimi.
Nick keeps insisting that he doesn't want to detect, but somehow he gets sucked into it anyway when a gangster (ex-boyfriend of the murdered woman) invades his home and nearly kills him. Dorothy keeps popping up and pleading for help and protection; Charles' old flame Mimi is acting oddly; and her husband has some secrets of his own. Despite Nick's aversion to detective work, he and Nora set out to unravel the mystery surrounding the Thin Man. (Wynant, for your information)
Hammett's cynical attitude was a huge part of his writing, but there's a new dimension to it in "Thin Man." Charles spends a lot of time trying to distance himself from his detective past, and in a way it feels like Hammett was distancing himself from his detective novels. Was Nick's dissatisfaction a sign of Hammett's? Quite possibly.
But many of the things about "Thin Man" are vintage Hammett: lying waifs, men in disguise, lots of lying and booze. Almost everyone is sociopathic, and Nick and Nora aren't exactly what one would call "heroes.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Real Nick and Nora July 7 1999
Forget those movies. They took a grimly funny novel about a group of predatory monsters and turned it into a series of light comedies. As splendid as William Powell and Myrna Loy are, they cannot hold a candle to the Nick and Nora portrayed in this novel.
Hammett did not write a novel about a sophisticated couple who genteelly solve a murder while pouring cocktails and trading quips. He wrote a dark novel about an ex-detective who has married a wildly wealthy woman, and wants to spend the rest of his life managing her money. He is only faintly connected to the murders, having known the victim and his family briefly several years before, and wants nothing to do with the whole business. He is continually dragged in, however, and very nearly becomes a victim himself. Even a cursory reading of the novel should demonstrate that Hammett was up to much more than a series of one-liners with detective interruptions. Why else would Hammett, one of the most economical of authors, bring the novel to a halt to include a case history of Alfred Packer, the only American convicted of the crime of cannibalism?
There is much more here than Hollywood, or anyone else that I know of, has yet realized.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By lazza
Most folks know The Thin Man for the famous 1930s/1940s film series about detective Nick Charles and his socialite wife Nora. The films are known for being breezy and comedic rather than for the actual plot, which typically involves a murder mystery. The original novel The Thin Man is certainly of this mold, which for some might be perfect but for others (like me) a bit disappointing.
In The Thin Man we have our handsome couple tinkling champagne glasses in 1930s Manhatten. Our reluctant detective is asked to sort out some shenanigans of a former client, and his very dysfunctional family. We are entertained by cameo appearances of thugs, crooks, and Asta (the family dog). It is all very cutsie without being too silly. However fans of other private detective novels of that genre, especially the Philip Marlowe stories by Raymond Chandler, will find The Thin Man to be too ... thin. No sparkling dialogue, no real nasty characters, ... no "oomph".
Bottom line: painless reading. But see the film, forget the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
For those of you who allow amature reviewers to guide your reading decisions, know this: Those reviews that talk about the book as being about a "destructive relationship" and the characters of Nick and Nora Charles as the user and the willing usee have made the mistake of not reading the actual text on the page, but instead have tried to apply some late-twentieth century literaty criticism, which they don't fully know how to apply, paired with the social-moral attitides toward blatant alcoholism and frivolity, to a book that is simply what it purports to be: a detective novel with imperfect characters and a perfectly logical final twist. If they find Nick Charles to be a violent womanizer, one can only imagine what they have made of Chandler's Marlowe . . . although I wouldn't be surprised to find similarly misinformed opinions of those books by the same reviewers if I could be bothered to look for them.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars And get me a drink while you're up, Dear.... April 15 2002
By A Customer
This may be a "detective novel," but that's the least of it. The Thin Man is a statement of the good life, and included are plenty of style and sexiness. Nick and Nora Charles are the greatest, most reasonably decadent couple and the final, best commentary on the American high life that was thrown into such relief by the foil of Prohibition. Sure, there's a murder mystery, but there's also raw roast beef and onions, plenty of onions, from an all-night deli, washed down with perpetual scotch and soda. ... Dashiell Hammett wrote Nick Charles in order to be Dashiell Hammett: drunk, yes, but so what? Once great, always great, as long as you leave a legacy that people admire.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Dorothy is a sleaze in the book
When I see a film based on a novel, I like to read the novel to compare plots and execution. Most of the time the novel or story is fuller than the movie due to the short media... Read more
Published 12 months ago by bernie
4.0 out of 5 stars Dorothy is a sleaze in the book
When I see a film based on a novel, I like to read the novel to compare plots and execution. Most of the time the novel or story is fuller than the movie due to the short media... Read more
Published 12 months ago by bernie
3.0 out of 5 stars Not my cup of tea
This was required book club reading. I have never liked hard-boiled detective fiction, so, anything I say would be unfair.
Published 14 months ago by Disabilities? What Disabilities?
4.0 out of 5 stars Dorothy is a sleaze in the book
When I see a film based on a novel, I like to read the novel to compare plots and execution. Most of the time the novel or story is fuller than the movie due to the short media... Read more
Published on July 13 2007 by bernie
5.0 out of 5 stars A Grand Classic Detective novel.................
The Thin Man is a wonderful novel. Written in the classic Hammett style, the story is full of twists and turns of the interaction of well defined, recognizable characters. Read more
Published on Nov. 15 2003 by jeanne-scott
3.0 out of 5 stars Light fun
I had fun reading this murder mystery involving a set of interesting, if not quite likeable, characters (who, as others have noted, drink a *lot*). Read more
Published on Sept. 14 2003 by Jacob H. Huebert
4.0 out of 5 stars Hard-boiled, Cynical, Vividly Rendered Crime Novel
The year is 1932. Nick and Nora Charles have decided to spend Christmas in New York, away from their California home and family business. Read more
Published on July 24 2003 by mirasreviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Watch the movie, instead
Having come off of reading Maltese Falcon and watching the Thin Man movie, I had high expectations for the book. Read more
Published on Feb. 24 2003 by Pansori
4.0 out of 5 stars Heavier weight than it first appears
This book actually is worth reading a couple of times. Read it the first time for fun, but then reread it to see what you missed seeing the first time around. Read more
Published on July 25 2002 by Neal Reynolds
4.0 out of 5 stars The Dark Underbelly of Depression-Era New York
Unlike the famous film version starring William Powell and Myrna Loy, the characters of Dashiell Hammett's THE THIN MAN range in tone from vapid to vicious, with only Nick and Nora... Read more
Published on June 23 2002 by Gary F. Taylor
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