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Cannonball Read #21: The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett

I think The Thin Man may be one of those iconic books in its genre that has been parodied and referenced so many times that by the time one actually reads it, it all feels terribly familiar.

The main character is Nick Charles, former detective and man-about-town. On a visit to New York with his young wife, Nora, he becomes entangled in the problems of the very emotional and very strange Wynant family. This leads to Nick chasing around New York, following leads, dealing with hysterical women, getting shot at, and having approximately 347 drinks (he seems to do nothing, in fact, except drink and have people in and out of his hotel suite.)

The plot is relatively complex, and I didn't guess until near the end how it was going to turn out. However, I found the characters unrelateable--perhaps it's the era, but all of them seemed rather vapid and/or hysteria-prone. Nick seemed like kind of a jerk, and his wife nothing but a sweet sidekick. Plus, I personally found the writing style somewhat off-putting. A lot of the dialogue was described rather than explicitly written, so there was a lot of "I asked Nora to pour me another drink while I told Dorothy that I thought she was being ridiculous and told her to go home."

Although it wasn't anything I'd read again, I'm glad to have read it, if only because I'm now "clued in" on any parodies...i.e. Dick and Dora Charles in the hilarious film Murder By Death. I'd recommend it for hardcore mystery fans or perhaps those who enjoy the writing style of the 1930s.

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