Context: Got some nice chairs to relax on for the veranda while reading this.
Not read any Hammett before but as soon as I hit the first line, I recognised the inspiration for Raymond Chandler. Although Chandler was good, Hammett was even better.
This is the story of, Nick Charles, private eye who manages to solve a case even though he never really takes it on. Instead, playing from the side-lines, Nick pieces together the entire story, despite downing several drinks a page.
This was in fact, Hammett’s last novel. I just happened to pick it up first not knowing this. When someone creates a genre, as Hammett did for the hardboiled detective novel, it’s hard to read it as if it was a new creation. I did my best but I wish I hadn’t read a few Chandler novels first.And it’s hard to think of characters like Nick Charles without already picturing Humphrey Bogart in the role.
Still I found Hammett’s prose more edgy than Chandler’s. I really liked the way he describes very subtle details of characters that seem almost incidental and irrelevant. It keeps you on your toes wondering what’s significant and what isn’t – perfect for a suspense novel.
I didn’t figure out who’d done the deed as it were. The twist was cleverly constructed. I could have guessed but just went along enjoying the prose, the characters and the era. Now reading The Maltese Falcon which I’ve already realised is all this and more.
I was leaning against the bar in a speakeasy on Fifty-second Street, waiting for Nora to finish her Christmas shopping, when a girl got up from the table where she had been sitting with three other people and came over to me.