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The Thin Man Paperback – July 17, 1989


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books; Reprint edition (July 17, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679722637
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679722632
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.1 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (131 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #75,483 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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

Review

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

The Thin Man marks the first time I have thoroughly enjoyed a Dashiell Hammett novel.
K. Brown
Written in the classic Hammett style, the story is full of twists and turns of the interaction of well defined, recognizable characters.
jeanne-scott
It's not hard to see why this happened: the book is a mere mystery, with a rather pedestrian plot and not very memorable characters.
David W. Nicholas

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Tom From NY on July 7, 1999
Format: Paperback
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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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By JR on March 15, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is one of the best crime novels ever written because it transcends the genre so beautifully, you won't even care about the mystery plot. The characters make it biting, strong and unforgettable, freaks and weirdos alike... Nick and Nora Charles are 2 of the most perfect literary creations in all of fiction. Hollywood cleaned them up a little and made them classy social lushes, but in their original written form, they're cynical, world weary wise acres. Their heavy drinking only adds to the book's appeal. Dashielle dedicated it to his long time love Lillian Hellman, as she, in turn, dedicated a few of her plays to him. The Maltese Falcon is the most famous of Hammett's works, The Daine Curse, his most complicated, Red Harvest, his most violent, The Glass Key, his most bitter. But the Thin Man is the most entertaining. You'll feel like reading it with a bottle of booze at your side.
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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 6, 1999
Format: Paperback
I believe it was F. Scott Fitzgerald who once said, "Hammett is one of those good writers ruined by Hollywood." This book shows Fitzgerald's quote in action.
Don't misunderstand me, 'The Thin Man' is an excellent story. It's amuzing, tense, and contains possibly Hammett's most memorable characters, but it's also a complete departure from his previous novels. In a way, 'The Thin Man' is a farewell. Here we have a once hard-boiled detective, Nick Charles, who has settled down with his wise-cracking wife, Nora, and doesn't want anything to do with his previous work. Instead, Nick drinks, and drinks, and drinks, and goes to parties, and hosts parties, and the like. Whenever anyone questions Nick over the case that he's rumored to be working, Nick simply claims that he doesn't want anything to do with being a detective and leaves it at that.
This being Hammett's final novel, I believe that it an all too valid assumption that Hammett was using the character of Nick to symbolize himself and his own mentality. To connect this with Fitzgerald's comment, following the publication of 'The Thin Man', some movie studio handed Hammett a check for something like $40,000 for use of the characters, cementing his literary decrepitude, and he never worked again.
But it is a good read, very good, and while I would have liked to have given it the full five stars, i've chosen to remain with four, as 'The Thin Man' just doesn't compare with many of Hammett's other classics.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Ty Davis on August 1, 2008
Format: Paperback
Boy, these reviews are all over the place, aren't they! Well, they at least give you the plot so I don't have to. Here are some quick comments:

There is so much going on in this book that most people miss much of it the first time (as these reviews show), especially if they don't know Hammett's life. As noted, Hammett modeled Nick and Nora on himself and his paramour, budding playwright Lillian Hellman, so it's interesting to see how he dealt in fiction with their relationship and his ultimate failure to cope with success.

Yet, "The Thin Man" works - and works well - as a straight, hard-boiled detective novel, too (which is why none of the characters are particularly likeable). Also, Nora, one of the few, strong female detectives of the pulp magazine era, has inspired countless woman (including Myrna Loy) through the decades.

Hammett's sparse style of writing, which many critics (including myself) think Hemingway merely popularized, revolutionized American literature. Each of Hammett's words had to do its part. Similarly, unlike those of earlier detective novels, Hammett's characters committed murder and other mayhem for actual reasons! The notion greatly affected Chandler, Macdonald, and all the others who toiled in the garden Hammett created. His books are all classics of American literature.

Some of these reviewers have made too much of the "alcoholism" in the book. Fact is, a certain, large segment of society in the `30s - products of Prohibition - did (or wanted to) drink the way the book's characters do and thought nothing of it. Basically, everybody drank in those days. Even the President of the United States had a bootlegger.
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