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The Thin Man

The Thin Man77. Dashiell Hammett, The Thin Man

Nick and Nora Charles are wealthy socialites visiting New York over the Christmas holidays in 1932. They intend to spend their vacation doing nothing but swapping witticisms and downing cocktails; however, they soon hear about the shocking murder of Julia Wolf, secretary to the famous inventor Clyde Wynett. The Charleses are acquainted with Wynett and his family, and soon various members of the family start pleading with Nick, a former private detective, to solve the case. Wynett is currently the number-one suspect in Wolf’s murder, but neither the police nor anyone else can seem to find him. Nick is reluctant to become involved, but soon even the police are pulling him onto the case. Nick’s search for answers leads him to a thorough investigation of the bizarre Wynett family – but how can he find out the truth when everyone is telling so many lies?

First of all, this book is quite different from the movie starring William Powell and Myrna Loy. For the record, I enjoyed both, but the book is a lot darker and the plot is more complicated (though the basic storyline is the same). Hammett’s characters use a lot of colloquial language and slang, which can be confusing – I think deliberately so; also, most of the characters speak obliquely rather than being straightforward. All this made the book a little hard to follow in places, but overall I admired the witty dialogue and the ingenuity of the plot. I also really liked the relationship between Nick and Nora, but the book didn’t spend a lot of time focusing on it, so in that area I prefer the movie. My favorite part of the book is the last two chapters, where Nick reveals the solution to the mystery and explains it to his wife. I don’t want to spoil it, but the last line in the book is brilliant! Overall, I’d recommend this book to people who enjoy noir-type mysteries and dark, understated humor.

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