The Thin Man – Review

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The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett

Age: Adult

Set in the backstreets of New York City during the 1930’s Depression Era, San Francisco detective Nick Charles finds himself dragged into solving a murder mystery concerning one of his former New York friends. With a dead body, a missing father, police and the mob and a very dysfunctional family all vying for a chance to gain Nick’s trust and confidence, will he be able to figure out whodunit?

Hammett’s writing is fluid, colloquial and highly entertaining with Nick and Nora’s sarcastic jabs and jests. Although this book is a stand-alone, it had the feeling of being part of a series, and that Nick and Nora were characters we were already familiar with. I have never started reading a book and felt so attached to the characters. The setting is utterly noir, set in speak-easys and apartment homes scattered throughout New York City. There are mobsters, police, conmen and more through the book. Not too mention all the alcohol consumed just by Nick alone. If one isn’t chain smoking, then they are sipping on a glass of whiskey. I found this entirely intriguing given that it took place during Prohibition when alcohol was banned across the United States. Although there were a number of twists in the book, I was able to figure out whodunit before the book’s end summation. I think this is one of those books where the animated and kooky characters more than compensate for a lacking storyline. There is more talking and quips going back and forth in this book than in a typical Gilmore Girls episode. (fans of GG know what I’m talking about…those 80 page weekly scripts.)

I may not like contemporary mystery novels, but this one I can really get into. 80% of it is because of the language. Words and phrases like “what a rotten guy” “what a mug he has” etc. Although there is one phrase, that for the life of me, I can’t figure out what it means.

Dorothy’s coming up. I think she’s tight.

What on Earth does “tight” mean? It’s used again in the book and confused me for a bit.

Dashiell Hammett is one of the most influential and profound mystery authors of the previous century. His works have been turned into popular movies: The Maltese Falcon with Humphrey Bogart, as well as the Thin Man movies. There is even a Dashiell Hammett tour in San Francisco once a week. It’s a 4 hour tour, for $10, and it follows in the footsteps of Sam Spade, the San Francisco detective from The Maltese Falcon.

The Thin Man
by Dashiell Hammett
Vintage Crime, 1933
ISBN 0679722637
201 pages


Find this book at your local library

The thin man

2 responses to “The Thin Man – Review

  1. Not familiar with the context, but I’m guessing from the era “tight” might refer to being intoxicated or under the influence of something. That was a great era of writing and film-making.

    Tossing It Out

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