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Book Review: The Thin Man

The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett (2 star review)

The Thin Man

written by Dashiell Hammett

269 pages // published in 1934 // vintage crime fiction


The Thin Man introduces Nick and Nora Charles, New York’s coolest crime-solving couple. Nick retired from detecting after his wife inherited a tidy sum, but six years later a pretty blonde spies him at a speakeasy and asks for his help finding her father, an eccentric inventor who was once Nick’s client. Nick can no more resist the case than a morning cocktail or a good fight, and soon he and Nora are caught in a complicated web of confused identities and cold-blooded murder.

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.

My Review

2 Star Rating

I absolutely adore The Thin Man movies from the 1930's. The films are classic detective comedies, starring William Powell and Myrna Loy. So, of course, I just had to read the novel that started it all...

The book is much darker than the films were. This was my first shock after picking up the novel. It seems to dwell on the darker issues, as opposed to the films where the setting was much more light-hearted and funny. It's a stark difference, but still, that part didn't throw me too much, as I was able to adapt to a different kind of vibe.

As for the writing style, it's quipped short. No superfluous descriptions here! Nick Charles narrates his own mystery story, and I found his thoughts to be dry, though funny (he especially thinks himself funny), whereas in the films, I always thought Nick Charles was funny, with some dry remarks. There's a difference in there, but nothing drastic. I wasn't quite sure if he appreciates his wife as much as he could. Maybe he does though, and just cleverly hides it behind his “witty” and wry banter with her. She does seem to cling to him and is happy with their marriage, but I don't think she's as much as a detective as the Myrna Loy portrayal is.

I did enjoy all the mentions of their pet dog Asta (a cute little furball!). Nick seems to always be on the lookout for his favorite pooch, and those scenes did warm my heart.

It's definitely an "adult" novel. There's many reasons why I say this, but the biggest (most-referenced) reasons I came across include: alcoholism (my, does Nick Charles drink!) and the amount of foul words used throughout (it was definitely more than I expected, when comparing it to the films).

Overall? My vote is for the movie version.

Available on Amazon in paperback and e-book format.

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This is book #6 for me in the Back to the Classics 2017 challenge.
[CATEGORY: 20th Century Classic]

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