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The Thin Man – “Drink Up”

March 22, 2014

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The Thin Man 

by Dashiell Hammett

Paperback: 208 pages

Vintage Books; Reprint edition (July 17, 1989)

$11.68 on Amazon, less for Kindle (Click: The Thin Man)

Nick Charles is like the pleasant host of a dinner party who gives everyone a chance to speak. And what we get is a room full of colorful characters who could take this classic in many different directions. What we don’t get is the presence of a central character who—not Charles—is the “thin man.”

His having been murdered is the great surprise of the book (no matter how many times you’ve read it or seen the movie).

Not to say there aren’t some problems. Nick and Nora are a great team, everywhere the dialogue is snappy, but there is a long excerpt from a book on cannibalism that could be eliminated and the last thirty pages are a tedious making of everything right. The disappearance comes with a problem—how to explain all the red herrings that have led to the wrong conclusion.

Modern audiences want something with more depth. The surface mystery uncovers hidden subjects harder to address, whether or not they get solved. The story goes  from two-dimensions to three. From escapism to confrontation.

Read this for what it does and where writers, like Ross MacDonald have taken the genre.

“What’s that, Nick, you say I’ve been talking long enough!”

4 out of 5

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