Recent Read: The Thin Man


“Nora: “How do you feel?”

Nick: “Terrible. I must’ve gone to bed sober.”

If you drank as much as Nick Charles does in The Thin Man, Nora does pretty well herself, you would never get passed the first few chapters of this or any other book. AA or even an early death would be in your future. The generous amounts of drinking may signal more about the author’s appetite for booze than anything else. The Thin Man is a decent mystery, but it’s most enjoyable for its sophisticated bantering and witty dialogue.

Nick and Nora Charles have come to New York for the Christmas holidays. Nick, the son of Greek immigrants, is a former Private Investigator who has given up his career after marrying socialite Nora. Nick rather spend his time drinking which he does in ample amounts. He is drawn unwillingly into a case involving a missing inventor and his dead mistress.  While solving the case, there is plenty of drinking, bantering, drinking,  smart dialogue and still more drinking.

The Thin Man is a  fun mystery but not in the same class as The Maltese Falcon. There is an odd break about halfway through when Hammett goes into a long, detailed story about the Alfred G. Packer (first name is sometimes spelled Alferd) cannibalism case which extends for quite a few pages and breaks the rhythm. The Packer story is interesting in itself but seems to have no relationship to the rest of the book and goes on for way too long. I have to wonder why Hammett included it, what was the point?


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