The Thin Man - Dashiell Hammett

The Thin Man
by Dashiell Hammett


Buddy read at Booklikes - tags: n/a
Collective Reading Updates for The Thin Man


Ex-detective Nick Charles attracts trouble like a magnet.  He thinks his sleuthing days are over, but when Julia Wolf, a former acquaintance, is found dead, her body riddled with bullets, Nick - along with his glamorous wife, Nora - can't resist making a few enquiries.  Clyde Miller Wynant, Julia's lover and boss, has disappeared.  Everyone is after him, but Nick is not convinced Wynant is the murderer - and when he finds a junked-up hoodlum with a careless attitude to guns in his bedroom, it's only the beginning of his troubles.



"Do you think Jorgensen killed her?" she asked.

"I thought I knew who did it," I said, "but it's too mixed up right now for anything but guesses."

"And what's your guess?"

"Mimi Jorgensen, Wynant, Nunheim, Gilbert, Dorothy, Aunt Alice, Morelli, you, me, or Guild.  Maybe Studsy did it.  How about shaking up a drink?"

I believe that about sums up the entire investigation of The Thin Man.  Frankly, I spent a good lot of time not really paying attention to the book, if only because I had a hard time figuring out what was going on in the first place.  And also, I was trying to make my tallies for whenever someone took a drink.  As far as I could tell, there was a murder, and then Nick Charles spent most of the time reluctantly investigating the murder after being pushed into the whole mess... and everyone has some sort of sketchy background.

The rest of the book saw all of the characters generally having a merry time, dancing, drinking, hanging out... or just being their plain crazy selves.

The bar on crazy just kept getting raised a bit higher each time Mimi or Dorothy showed up, and the dramatics were pretty explosive.  Gilbert was a strange kid, completely creepy strange, and yet he somehow seemed a bit more stable than his mother and sister--until you read his dialogue and start wondering whether he's going to be the next sociopathic serial killer with his questions about cannibalism, and the acceptability of incest in the western U.S, and his experimentation with morphine.

Overall, the entire convoluted relationship tree involving that family, including exes, lovers, etc... was just a big ball of dysfunctional.

In my honest opinion, this wasn't a completely terrible book, if you can overlook the creepy commentary about Dorothy from the men, or the back-handed commentary about women in general, or even the fact that Nick is kind of an arrogant ass whom everyone seems to either be in love with or worships.  Or even that entire passage about cannibalism...

Nora could have been a potentially great character, but she felt down-played, and soon got relegated to background, simply there to accompany Nick, or to get everyone drinks and food.  Dorothy got on my nerves with the constant sobbing and whining and dramatics; Mamma Mimi was just crazy.  Others actually felt kind of flat.

Truth is, we needed more of Asta.  There wasn't nearly enough of Asta.  Asta might have at least helped the book a little bit.  Okay, maybe not, but at least I would have been satisfied with more Asta.

I think I enjoyed the Buddy Read aspect, discussing the book, making fun of the characters, being quite taken aback by the amount of drinking... more so than I actually enjoyed the book itself.

The Thin Man is a book that certainly isn't something I'd come back to.

And by request, here is the somewhat, half-assed drink tallying spreadsheet I used to keep track of everyone's drinking.

I kind of lost track in some of the chapters, so this spreadsheet isn't exact; and I stopped tallying at Chapter 26, but the book was almost over by then, and Nick's drink count was in the 30s, so I figured I had made my point.


I couldn't get the spreadsheet to paste over with the names running vertical, so I just took a screen shot and called it good.

A few notes about the data:

  • I mostly counted one drink whenever it was mentioned that a drink was poured, a drink was brought to someone, or someone finished their drink, or took a drink.
  • Again, I stopped counting after Chapter 26, though I'm sure Nick had another drink in that chapter, bringing his total up one more.  I'm also sure both Nick and Nora had a drink in the last chapter.
  • I also tried to count some of the minor characters, but lost track of some when we ended up at any speakeasy since there were so many other people present.
  • I also didn't count how many drinks each character had when they were at a party or a bar, and only counted whichever ones were narrated--but we all know that you don't just drink one when you hang around a bar for a long time.  Especially not these people.  I considered giving everyone at least one implied drink even if it wasn't narrated--I don't remember if I actually did or not.
  • Nick doesn't actually take a drink in any part of the narrative in Chapter 7, but it's hard for me to believe he DOESN'T drink at a party where everyone else is drinking.  I gave him an implied drink count, but feel free to subtract that from the total if we want to get specific--I don't think it'll make a difference.
  • Both Dorry and Harrison Quinn showed up drunk on at least two occasions--I don't know how many drinks that implies, so I won't count them since they were "off-stage," so to speak.  It's possible that if those drinks were counted, both would be up about +10 drinks.  Although Dorry's supposed to be a tiny girl, so maybe she only needed a couple drinks to get really smashed.
  • I lumped Harrison Quinn and Alice Quinn into one category as 'the Quinns'; they don't really show up all that often.
  • At the level of crazy that she is at, I'm surprised Mimi didn't have as many drinks.  Then again, she wasn't exactly the focus of the book anyway.
  • Overall, while it seems like these people are always drinking, the tally doesn't seem that high for everyone else, but Nick.  And since I'm not sure about the duration of time this book takes place, maybe 33 drinks isn't so bad?  O.O  However, the fact that Nick always seems to start his day with a drink or two before he even has breakfast probably says something...
  • Nick has more drinks than there are chapters in this book.

For certain, these people have a lot of house parties.  And I'm also not sure I know when the last time was I offered a random visitor hard liquor as a refreshment.  Because obviously these people don't have tea, coffee, or water in their homes.

And that's a wrap!



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