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Woman in the Dark Paperback – July 17, 1989

3.7 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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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 Crime/Black Lizard; 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: #992,467 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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?
Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
Even Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth struck out at times. And Hammett? He may have been the father of modern literary noir, delivering punches and jabs to the stomach to make us wince, but even he swung and missed once and a while. To say that WOMAN IN THE DARK does not pack the punch of THE MALTESE FALCON or the CONTINENTAL OP collection of stories would be to give this book more credit than it is due even through the negative comparison.

It is not so much that anything is wrong with this novella. It is just completely forgettable. Nothing sticks to the ribs. Sure the story is good - a dame runs away from her guy, thugs are in pursuit, with the `hero' bringing his own rough justice to day. But it is not the story that makes a book good, but rather the nuance that an author brings to it.

Hammett here is just going through the motions. I found myself discussing Hammett recently with a friend and, when he mentioned that he had never heard of WOMAN IN THE DARK, I could only think that there was a reason for that. In the catalogue of an author's work, this one should have remained lost behind the bookshelf.
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