The Thin Man Paperback – Jul 17 1989
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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.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
The Thin Man movies were part of my growing up and I have seen most of them. William Powell and Myrna Loy were. in my opinion, the ideal couple to play the leading rolls. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Denis Beauchamp
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 morePublished on Nov. 14 2013 by bernie
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 morePublished on Nov. 11 2013 by bernie
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 morePublished on Oct. 17 2013 by bernie
This was required book club reading. I have never liked hard-boiled detective fiction, so, anything I say would be unfair.Published on Sept. 4 2013 by Disabilities? What Disabilities?
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 morePublished on Nov. 15 2003 by jeanne-scott
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 morePublished on Sept. 14 2003 by Jacob H. Huebert
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 morePublished on July 24 2003 by mirasreviews