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The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett
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The Thin Man

by Dashiell Hammett

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Former detective Nick Charles and his wife Nora travel to New York City for the Christmas/New Year holidays. While there, Nick runs in to the daughter of an old client, and soon after learns that the client's former lover has been murdered. Despite his protestations of early retirement, Nick finds himself drawn into the family and the case.

Dashiell Hammett is considered a master of the hard-boiled detective fiction novel, and I certainly found that to be the case with this novel. The Thin Man immediately drew me, fascinating me with its characters and making a quick read with its sharp and witty language. Hammett doesn't linger long on descriptions yet I always had perfect pictures in my head of what was going on, where it was happening, and exactly who it was happening with or to. Hammett deftly crafts a dysfunctional family in the Wynant/Jorgensen household, a seedy cast of degenerates in the mobsters and informants Nick encounters, a beleaguered police force, and more, all of who felt well-rounded and believable. And of course, Hammett creates here the famous Nick and Nora couple, who are absolutely delightful in their interactions together.

The story and particularly its characters were so compelling that I found I wasn't really trying to solve the case like I usually do with mystery books. Yes, I was a little suspicious of certain characters here and there, but I wasn't really formulating theories of my own much because I was too busy just waiting to see what happen next. By the end of the novel, I was certainly surprised by the tale that Hammett wove and hadn't remotely guessed the conclusion at all.

Overall, I very much enjoyed this book and will be looking forward to reading more Hammett in the near future. I'd recommend this book for those who read for plot as well as though who read for character and, of course, I'd especially recommend it for fans of mystery novels. ( )
  sweetiegherkin | Nov 28, 2014 |
I am not very fond of reading detective novels, but only if they have some cult status such as Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, or, in this case Hammett's The Thin Man.

Supposedly, The Thin Man, published in 1935, is an early and original detective novel, largely laying down the muster for the genre. The novel is centred around six or seven characters, who all know each other well, as family members, friends and acquaintances. While suspicion about the murder first points at the Clyde Miller Wynant, readers nowadays more familiar with the genre would soon rule out that character as the most obvious usually is not the culprit.

The novel is written throughout in mostly dialogue, with very little telling. As a result, the reader is almost as completely in the dark as most of the characters, and starts theorizing about possible candidates and their motive for the murder, which quite obviously seems to be the money.

With the limited role of story-telling, the obvious strategy of the novel is that the only knowledge that is imparted in through the physical presence of the characters, in conversation. It gradually becomes obvious that one character only communicates through correspondance, i.e. letters and telegrams.

The Thin Man contains some references to the period it was written. Quite modern is the suggestion that "junkies" might be responsible for robbery; the etymology of the word "junkie" can be traced to its earliest use in that sense in 1923. It appears in the novel (page 60) along with the word "hop-head" to denote a drug addict, which also sprang up in the jazz era of the 1920/30s' America. Another interesting linguistic feature is the repeated use of the word "speakeasy" for bars during the Prohibition era, from 1920 - 1933 in the United States.

The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett was issued in the Penguin Essentials series in 2012, and it is considered a classic and must read, as such included on the 1001 list of novels one should read. ( )
  edwinbcn | Nov 16, 2014 |
As thoroughly fun as the movie. (And the movie was perfectly cast -- the actors reflected the book wonderfully.) Hammett shines when he doesn't take his characters (or himself) quite so seriously. ( )
  AliceAnna | Oct 23, 2014 |
I have found two rather glaring errors in this paperback printing. They are glaring on their own, and I have confirmed that they are errors by comparison with my Knopf edition.
On the other hand, I quite like the illustration of the blonde on the lower half of the cover photo, which evokes the Mimi character well.

The book is one of my favorites. The one-star rating is for this particular edition of it. ( )
  davidreads | Aug 4, 2014 |
If an accomplished writer of hard boiled mysteries, one who set the standard, wants to write a satire on the exact same subject, then who are we to say “No.” And so the author of the Maltese Falcon, the creator of Sam Spade, has also created his alter ego, the rich, classy Nick Charles, his wife Nora and little dog, Asta.

The Charleses are in New York for the Christmas holiday season. A retired detective who is now managing his wife’s money, he’s approached by the attorney of an eccentric inventor and former client, Clyde Wynant, to find the murderer of his former secretary, Julia Wolf. All fingers seem to point to Wynant, who left town shortly before the murder.

The Thin Man is populated by Wynant’s comically dysfunctional family. Mimi, the ex-wife and a schemer, and Dorothy, the daughter, both have crushes on Nick. There is constant bickering in the family. The son is just plain weird.

The police detective is somewhat bumbling, but again, not in a hard boiled way, like those in The Maltese Falcon. Think more in line with Lt. Tragg in the Perry Mason series.

The Charleses are constantly going to dinner parties, speakeasies and the theater. They are having “cocktails”, not shots of bourbon, at all hours of the day and night (even upon awaking at 2 PM from the previous nights’ revelries).

There is no darkness to the movie. If you remember the opening scenes of The Maltese Falcon, the foggy San Francisco night, well forget that in The Thin Man. The most you’ll get here is a bit of rain.

Having watched the movie several times (although I don’t remember it being one of my favorites), TheThinManMovieI constantly pictured William Powell and Myrna Loy as the Charleses. But, I’m going to watch it tonight, again, since I just finished the book and we’ll see what I think. Stay tuned!!!!

Well, it was better than I expected, but not great. It was almost slapstick. The movie stuck reasonably close to the book, but there were some differences, as you would expect. The addition of a fiancé for Dorothy negated the need for a Mr. Quinn, who throughout the book falls for her. However, he is brought in at the end of the movie and one wonders who the heck he is.

Another part of the book that was neglected was Mimi’s second husband, Chris Jorgenson. In the movie, he didn’t play a major role, whereas in the book, he was a critical character. I realize that you must leave things out of a movie unless you want to make it hours long, but leaving characters sort of hanging does little to improve the story.MyrnaLoy

I think the two things that stole the show were the costumes, especially Myrna Loy’s and Asta. Ms. Loy wore some outrageous, some sexy, some plain costumes, but they were all noticeable. There was a style and sexiness back in the day that we just haven’t captured now.

So, in conclusion, The Thin Man book is a great satire on the hard boiled detective and the movie is enjoyable but nothing to write home about. ( )
  EdGoldberg | Jul 13, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dashiell Hammettprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Huhtala, EeroTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Walker, JamesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I was leaning against the bar in a speakeasy on Fifty-second Street, waiting for Nora to finish her Christmas shopping, when a girl got up from the table where she had been sitting with three other people and came over to me.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679722637, Paperback)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:30:11 -0400)

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Nick Charles searches for a wealthy inventor who is the prime suspect in a New York City murder case.

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Audible.com

An edition of this book was published by Audible.com.

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Penguin Australia

Two editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 014119460X, 0241962528

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