Review: The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett

I’ve been a fan of The Thin Man movie for over twenty years, but I never read the book by Dashiell Hammett. That is until now. Even though it’s different from the movie, I still loved the novel. Usually I enjoy the book more; however, this is a rare instance that I place both of them on equal footing. After enjoying the movie for so long, I can’t, or won’t maybe, say I don’t like it now. The movie is more comedic, while the novel is grittier.

Nick Charles is a former detective in New York City. He gave up the job when he married Nora. She’s wealthy and Nick gave up sleuthing to manage their assets, while consuming generous amounts of alcohol. My gut tells me that he did more drinking than managing. I know for a fact, I wouldn’t be able to keep up with him and I wouldn’t want to try.

During a visit to New York, Nick finds himself in a pickle. An old client is missing and another person is murdered. Nick becomes a suspect. The story takes place during the Prohibition era, so much of the action happens in speakeasies. I’ve always been fascinated by this time period. While he is pulled into the drama Nick has to contend with an unpleasant family, the Wynants. They made my skin crawl. Nick and Nora do their best to stay out of trouble (but it keeps finding them) and attempt to solve the mystery. Along the way, they banter back and forth and their wit is pure brilliance.

This book is a must for those who love the movie and who like detective novels. It’s on my 1001 books to read before you die list.

I read this novel this past summer during my trip to Germany, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. Over the course of two weeks, I had many flights. This novel, which is only 190 pages, was the perfect book to have in my travel bag, meaning it wasn’t too heavy. I opted not to bring Bleak House, which is over 700 pages. During my flights, I read The Thin Man. When I took a break from reading, this was my view outside.

 

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American living in England. When she isn’t writing, she’s traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs, or reading. Not necessarily in that order.
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26 Responses to Review: The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett

  1. Geoff W says:

    I quite enjoyed both the film and the movie. The movie however was a struggle for me because I just couldn’t quite get it. I mean I got it, but it was so jaunty (I’m sure there’s another word) and different from what I’d ever seen I just struggled to get into it at first. I should probably rewatch it.

    • TBM says:

      If you aren’t used to movies like this I can see how the jauntiness could get to you. I love movies from this era so I was expecting the liveliness and wit. I’m thinking of watching it again soon. If you do, I hope you enjoy it more.

  2. Carl V. says:

    I’m right there with you in that I enjoyed both equally and don’t mind that they are each a bit different in terms of their mood and their focus. It was many years after watching and re-watching the film that I finally read The Thin Man but when I did I was so glad I finally took the time as it is very good. Of course it helps that I love Powell and Loy in the roles and was picturing them the whole time. The Thin Man films (with the exception of the last one that I don’t really like) are such great fun, I wish there were more movies like that out there. We re-watch them often.

    As if you need anything else to add to your list, I would recommend adding The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry. It is an homage to pulp detective stories, The Thin Man in particular, and is a very different but very good read.

    • TBM says:

      I was picturing Powell and Loy when I was reading the novel as well. They fit the characters so well. Such a great movie pairing! I miss the feel of movies from this era. I’ll have to keep an eye out for the Berry novel. You know me, once I find out about a book, it goes on my list. I hope I live a long life so I can squeeze in all of the books I want to read.

  3. Jo Bryant says:

    I’ve seen nor read this…so on the list it goes.

  4. Beth Ann says:

    I have never seen the movie OR read the book…….hmmmm…where have I been???

  5. elisaruland says:

    Ha, one of my favorite old movie series. And that cute little dog, what was his name – Asta?

  6. thomasasimard says:

    You’ve encouraged me to see the movie and read the book.

    I love films of that era, and it’s a mystery to me why I haven’t yet seen it. I’ve been meaning to get the book ever since having read his Red Harvest, which I found absolutely brilliant.

    • TBM says:

      I love movies from the 30s and 40s. Even when I was a kid in the 80s, I spent more time watching the classics. I haven’t read Red Harvest, but I’ll add it to my list. I did enjoy his style and fall is the perfect time to read mysteries. Thanks for the tip and I hope you enjoy The Thin Man if you read it.

  7. Caroline says:

    I haven’t read a lot of Hammett because I’m such a Chandler fan. I’ve read The Glass Key and watched the movie. I think I preferred the film. I don’t think I’ve seen The Thin Man but I’m sure it’s good.
    My next one will be The Maltese Falcon. I’ve had the book for years now.

    • TBM says:

      I love the movies. Myrna Loy and William Powell are brilliant! I’m hoping my library has a copy of The Maltese Falcon so I can read it for RIP. And somehow I’ve managed to avoid the movie all of these years. I haven’t read any Chandler books yet, but I almost picked one up the other day at the library. He’s been on my TBR for years now. I think I want to get through the Hammett novels first and then start on Chandler.

  8. zelmare says:

    Every time I read one of your reviews, I promise myself to make an effort to make more time to read more. It makes me sad beyond belief that I have to ‘force’ myself to read these days…

  9. Fergiemoto says:

    That’s a perfect way to pass the time away – reading during a flight! Thanks for the book review. That’s another one to put on my list.

  10. Carol says:

    I’ve never seen the movie but I picked up the book a couple of weeks ago. I’ll have to get around to reading it soon.

  11. I love The Thin Man movies, though I’ve never read the books. Myrna Loy as Nora is terrific. Do the books have the little dog Asta?
    Your comparison between book and movie reminds me of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The book by Capote is much grittier and darker than the movie.

    • TBM says:

      I love Loy. She was such a beautiful and talented actress. Asta is in the novel, but doesn’t feature as much. I should pick up a copy of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. That’s one of my favorite movies. I wonder if I’ll have the same reaction and like them both.

  12. lynnsbooks says:

    I haven’t read this book or seen the film! And yet I really like 30s/40s era films – I should go check it out.
    Thanks for that review and great shots from your flights.
    Lynn 😀

  13. zannyro says:

    Well….off to the bookstore I go!!

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