Thursday, March 26, 2009

Cannonball Read #11: The Thin Man, by Dashiell Hammett

"You damned fool, you didn't have to knock me cold. I knew you'd take him, but I wanted to see it." -Nora Charles

Nick Charles is a former private detective and cynical sot extraordinaire, hellbent on staying out of the gumshoe business. Nick is suddenly thrust back into detectiving and whatnot when Dorothy Wynant, the daughter of former acquaintance Clyde Wynant (the Thin Man himself), appeals to Nick to help find her father and solve the murder of his mistress. The plot then descends into a complete labyrinthine whodunit where suspicions flow more freely than the booze. It's crazy. Really crazy. People aren't who they say they are, new suspects appear every few pages, and that damned Mimi Jorgensen keeps lying her fool head off.

At times I found myself a little lost, from both the twists and the ever emerging cast of characters. But there were two addictive aspects to the book that kept me reading: Nick and Nora Charles. There's a chemistry between Nick and Nora throughout the book that is just so damned effortless that I found myself aching to be friends with both of them. The book is appealing on its own, full of dark corners, speakeasies, scummy felons, sarcastic cops, and hilariously manipulative women. But Nick and Nora Charles are the heart of the novel, bantering so frequently that I nearly had to catch my breath. They're so much fun that I rented the movie immediately after finishing the novel. And with one viewing, my love became eternal. The book has a hazy atmosphere, where the streets and clothes are gray and dingy and everyone's mood is just a little off from slight intoxication. The film manages to recreate the book's ambience and yet through the brilliant portrayals of Nick and Nora by Willian Powell and Myrna Loy, the movie feels joyous. Vibrant. I seriously love these characters. You become drunk from the force of your infatuation.

I'd say more, but I read this book about a month ago and I'm not one with articulation today. But...oh Nora. Please be my girlfriend. We can wear fabulous dresses and drink gin martinis while making ribald comments to the bartender.


Jeni said...

I fell in love with Nora as soon as she appeared on the screen and ordered the bartender to bring her enough drinks to catch up with Nick. I've never read the book, but now I think I'll have to.

Julie said...

I liked the movie better Jeni, but the book was definitely fun. And seriously, that was the moment I fell in love as well!

Ben said...

I was planning on reading The Thin Man in the near future actually, so this review sounds like I should definitely pick up a copy at Barnes and Noble and read on!