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Woman in the Dark Paperback – July 17, 1989

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Other than Nick Charles in The Thin Man , Hammett's protagonists have never been particularly successful romantically. "Brazil," in this story, iswith mixed results. Luise Fischer stumbles into Brazil's remote country house in the middle of the night, running away from her boyfriend, Kane Robson, and his bodyguard, Conroy, who arrive on her heels. In the fracas that ensues when she refuses to leave with them, they kill her great Dane. Brazil beats them up, leaving Conroy seriously injured. Brazil and Luise flee to Brazil's friends in the city, where the police find them, shoot Brazil as he escapes and arrest Luise on trumped-up charges. Out on bail, she discovers that Brazil is at a sanatoriumrun by a friend of Robson's. She goes back to Robson; the man she loves is under his power. First published in Liberty magazine in 1933 and issued as a pulp paperback in the 1950s, the novella is short enough to read in an hour. There are a few vintage Hammett lines, but they are overwhelmed by stilted dialogue; this slight effort has none of the power of The Maltese Falcon or The Glass Key . Robert B. Parker has written an introduction, billed as an "appreciation." 25,000 first printing; BOMC dual main selection; QPBC selection.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

A young, frightened, foreign woman appears at the door of an isolated house. The man and woman inside take her in. Other strangers appear in pursuit of the girl. Menace is in the air.

Originally published in 1933, Hammett's Woman in the Dark shows the author at the peak of his narrative powers. With an introduction by Robert B. Parker, the author of the celebrated Spenser novels.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (July 17, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679722653
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679722656
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,077,044 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By EA Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 29, 2004
Format: Paperback
Dashiell Hammett hit gold with his rough-edged anti-heroes and shadowy plots. But he struck out in "Woman in the Dark," a tepid novella that originally appeared in "Liberty" magazine before vanishing for twenty years. Since this will be interesting only to Hammett completists, maybe it should have stayed lost.
A lovely young woman stumbles to a smalll house with an injured foot. It turns out the inhabitant of the house is Brazil, an ex-criminal who did time for killing a man in a brawl. A thug arrives to bring the girl, Luise, back to the man she is living with -- except Brazil punches him out. Now they're both in trouble... and in danger... and on the lam.
"Woman in the Dark" isn't a particularly thrilling thriller. Hammett's heart didn't seem to be in this tale; it's slow and wandering, and the grand showdown is somehow anticlimactic. What's more, it's very rushed -- it almost feels like Hammett scribbled it out with the intent of expanding it into a full-length novel.
Hammett's gritty, somewhat minimalist writing is a little awkward this time around. "One of the men pulled off his cap -- it was a gray tweed, matching his topcoat -- and..." is only one example of the unusually choppy style. But his sense of atmosphere is still unparalleled, with all the grime, grease and smoke of his urban backdrop.
The characterizations are sketchy at best. Brazil is much like Hammett's other anti-heroes, with a tough-guy attitude over some very intense feelings. Love interest Luisa is a walking paper doll, a typical exotic kept woman who falls for our anti-hero -- although it's never quite clear why they do fall in love.
"Woman in the Dark" is an unusually flat, sketchy novel by a classic mystery author. One of Hammett's few misfires, this is a curiosity but nothing worth getting excuted about.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Neal Reynolds VINE VOICE on July 25, 2002
Format: Paperback
Hammett's style is good enough that you do care about the two main characters. But something's missing. It is almost as if he was lacking interest in his own story. Maybe not.
Whatever the case, it's worth reading just because it's Hammett. It tells the story of a guy who got a bad rap the first time around, and just a few weeks after getting out of jail, he finds himself in danger of going back. There's a feeling of hopelessness here and the ending seems a bit ambiguous.
It's a good crime adventure short, but far from the best Hammett. It's still worth having in your collection.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Orrin C. Judd VINE VOICE on October 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
Love may be a many splendored thing, but it sure as heck ruined Dashiell Hammett. This story originally appeared in three installments in Liberty magazine in April, 1933. He had met Lillian Hellman two years earlier, with whom he was to share a rather troubled but now mythical romance (and an unrepentant and slavish enthusiasm for Joseph Stalin) for the rest of his life. The next year he published his final novel, The Thin Man, and then fell silent with a writer's block that ranks second only to that of Joseph Mitchell in legend.
Woman in the Dark is certainly not a novel; at best it's a novella and even then it feels more like the outline for a longer work. The woman of the title is Luise Fischer, the Swiss-born kept woman of a wealthy thug named Kane Robson. Having walked out on him one evening, she twists her ankle and stops for help at cottage occupied by Brazil, a phlegmatic ex-con, who once killed a man in a barroom brawl. When Robson shows up with a henchmen to demand that Luise come back to him, Brazil punches the other man who bangs his head, perhaps fatally, on the fireplace mantle. Now both Brazil and Luise have a reason to take it on the lam :
He emptied his glass and went to the front door, where he made a pretense of looking out at the night.
As he turned from the door he caught her expression, though she hastily put the frown off her face. His smile, voice were mockingly apologetic : 'I can't help it. They had me away for a while--in prison, I mean--and it did that to me. I've got to keep making sure I'm not locked in.' His smile became more twisted. 'There's a name for it--claustrophobia--and that doesn't make it any better.'
'I am sorry,' she said. 'Was it--very long ago?
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 1, 2000
Format: Paperback
This short novel was published originally in Liberty Magazine in three parts, and it is now in three chapters--each one reaching a climax that makes the reader quickly turn the page to finish the book at one reading. We have Hammett's hard-boiled protagonist--not a detective--but an attractive, very masculine ex-con named Brazil, and a world-weary, beautiful Swiss woman fleeing from the decadent world she now despises. The tension in the story derives both from the relationship between the two main characters and from their efforts to flee the police and the woman's pursuers. As always, Hammett's prose is marvellous, sharp, pointed, and even lyrical. This is the last piece of fiction he wrote before The Thin Man, and if you love Hammett, you must read this well-plotted and thrilling tale.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Acute Observer on May 28, 2013
Format: Paperback
Woman in the Dark, Hammett

Robert Parker wrote the `Introduction' to this story. It was published in April 1933 after Hammett wrote most of his novels. It shows Hammett's views of life as a sequence of random events which may affect anyone. [But for people life goes on, day after day, except for diversions like reading a novel. Only those whose life is filled with may events will find random events, some of which can be dangerous. Your opinion may vary.] Parker mentions "money and sex" as if they were not motivators for human behavior. I assume Hammett wrote this story to meet the editor's wishes. Did `Liberty' magazine have a style for stories? The success of "The Thin Man" means fame and fortune for Hammett, like someone who wins a lot of money in a lottery (or inheritance). What did he do with his spare time now that he was a celebrity? Think of "Nick Charles" after marrying a wealthy heiress.

A woman turned her ankle on a county road at night. A light led her to a small cottage. Luise Fischer wants to go to the railroad station, but must wait until morning. Two men arrive with a Great Dane, they want Luise to return with them to the house. She refuses. A telephone call warns Evelyn, she must leave. Conroy neutralized the dog. Brazil returned to deal with him and Robson. Later he learns bad news about Conroy. He and Luise travel to a new place to find shelter. Will the police arrive to take Luise back to Mile Valley? She asks to see her lawyer, she tells him what happened. She is released on bail. Later she visits the sanatorium where Brazil is recovering. Luise decides to return to Mile Valley. There is a scene in Conroys' bedroom, he is saved. There is an ending where Luise takes off her rings. Will there be a happy ennding?

This story tells about the life of powerful landowner and his effect on others in his town. A lone person can be helpless against him. Hammett's other short stories are much better.
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