Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Thin Man [1934]

The mordant, and, as was his wont, highly serpentine detective-mystery tale The Thin Man was Hammett’s last completed novel. Though, in literary terms it wouldn’t compare with his most renowned novels The Maltese Falcon and Red Harvest, it still managed to be a mostly engaging read and was filled with a host of nicely edged characters. And, most interestingly, given that it formed the starting point for 6 films and a television series, it had the longest tangible after-life of all. Nick Charles, a street-smart, incorrigibly cynical, unabashedly hard-drinking and incessantly wisecracking Greek-American and former private detective, is on holiday in New York with his attractive and wealthy wife Nora, when he gets drawn into the case of a missing man that soon escalates into a complex case involving series of lies and betrayals, money, grotesque family details and murder. Charles is least interested in getting back to his old vocation, but when the eccentric inventor and his former client Richard Wynant can’t seem to be traced, he ends up getting drawn into the seedy affairs of the insanely dysfunctional Wynant family – Mimi, Richard’s duplicitous, manipulative, money-minded, perennially lying and brazenly sexual former wife who had a red-hot fling with Nick in the past, Dorothy, the coy and pretty daughter who too isn’t entirely trustworthy and is infatuated with Nick, and Gil, the nerdish, intelligent and unreliable son who’s obsessed with crime detection and hope to learn a thing or two from Nick. Mimi’s present husband and the family’s long-time lawyer rounded up the set-up, and anyone among them could be the one who’s killed Richard’s secretary. Even though the plot dragged a bit near the middle and the climax, where the criminal gets uncovered in one ingenious stroke, seemed too clever to be believable, the string of neatly-etched characters, the sordid tale of lust and greed, and the hardboiled dialogues, added a darkly charming colour to it. The double-entendres that the Charles speak in with one another, was also darn humorous.

Author: Dashiell Hammett
Genre: Crime Thriller/Mystery/Roman Noir/Detective Novel/Hardboiled
Language: English
Country: US