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The Thin Man Paperback – July 17, 1989
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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
From the Inside Flap
a 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.
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Quite aside from that, whoever did the scanning needs to get a better OCR program and scanner. The book is shot through with typos that are clearly OCR errors, including innumerable "non-words" that make the reader stop and try to figure out what word is meant.
All in all, I'd say the cost of this book, even in Kindle format, is hardly justified in view of the very, very bad editing. Get another edition.
I must say that I found the ending abrupt, with ''the story" of at least one of the main characters unresolved.
But , overall great wit, a wonderful mystery, which unfolds in an intriguing manner. Can read in one sitting.
For fans of the movie: many of the best lines in the movie are lifted verbatim from the book; the "whodunit" element is the same but the exposition is different. The Wynant family at the center of the murder are much more colorful, Mimi is infinitely more despicable, and the sexual interplay that is implied in the movie is more detailed in the book. Nora Charles is still a wisecrack, but more of a wife and much less of a collaborator.
The Glass Key is a great read. It even became the basis for the Coen Brother's classic Miller's Crossing. It is a noir style pulp fiction. If you have never read Hammett before, this is a good place to start, the prose is very clean yet descriptive and will have you constantly turning pages.
The novel itself is actually very good. Hammett remains my favorite of the "classic" crime writers and The Thin Man is his second or third best novel. (The Maltese Falcon is the best, followed by this one or by Red Harvest.) Read this if you can put up with a truly astonishing number of typos.