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11Aug/130

Book Review: The Thin Man

Dashiell Hammett's novel, The Thin Man  launched one of the golden age's greatest detective movie franchises, along with a popular radio program, as well as a 1950s syndicated TV series. The movies remain a fantastic showcase of the talents and chemistry of William Powell and Myrna Loy.

The Nick and Nora in this book don't have the pure level of charm and chemistry that made the movies so enjoyable. That was all the work of Powell, Loy, and direct W.S. Van Dyne. The book is good but different. The Thin Man is a comedy of manners mixed with a solid mystery.

Nick Charles is a retired private eye who gets pressed into investigating the murder of a woman in which a former client of his named Clyde Wynant is a suspect, though Wynant (who was the actual thin man not Charles) has been missing for quite some time. The mystery is actually pretty well done. The interaction between Charles and the policeman investigating the case are great detective work and thinking.

The comedy of manners portion works on many levels. Nick Charles is the ex-detective and committed husband who operates and understands many circles in life: from the wealthy socialites to the petty hoods that predominated during prohibition. The Wynant family is a freak show of children ruined by money and an ex-wife who is a compulsive liar. Compared to high society, the criminals and mobsters in the story are a far more sane and decent lot.

Of course, that leaves us with a story where the only sympathetic characters are Nick and Nora. Nora tries to help the daughter, Dorothy Wynant despite the fact that she's just as much a part of the craziness as everyone else. Nick is a mature man whose grounded and wants nothing more to do with the Wynants (understandably) or the murder, but is fully settled down from his hard-scramble days as an operative.

Hammett does make a few odd decisions. Most notable was the verbatim inclusion of a story of the Donner party or a reasonable facsimile thereof that took more than ten minutes for the audiobook narrator to read. And there were a few characters that were just plain tiresome rather than amusing, particularly the ex-wife Mimi and the son Gilbert. Also the conclusion lacks the class of the silver screen denouement.

Still, it's amusing mix that features Dashiell Hammett's talents at his peak.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5.0

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3Jan/110

EP0311: Thin Man: The Adventure of the Haunted Hams

Claudia Morgan

Nick and Nora help a Summer Theater company after a fire destroys their makeshift theater. Nora is convinced that she can be a star.

Original Air Date: July 13, 1948

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27Dec/100

EP0306: Thin Man: Adventure of the Passionate Palooka

Claudia Morgan

Nick and Nora are hired to help a boxer find his beloved missing dog and his girlfriend before the big fight.

Original Air Date: July 6, 1948

(Picture: Courtesy of Digital Deli.)

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20Dec/100

EP0301: Thin Man: The Boogie Woogie Murder

Claudia Morgan

Nick and Nora are in a record shop when a woman is murdered.  Nick sets out to solve the case.

Original Air Date: February 9, 1945

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13Dec/100

EP0296: Thin Man: The Case of the All-American Menace

Claudia Morgan

A young woman comes to Nick Charles to ask her help to kill a man and get away with it. Nick and Nora then get notice that the potential victim "is dead."

Original Air Date: December 1, 1944

Quote of the show: "I do wish people would get bumped off before we go to sleep."-Nora

(Picture: Courtesy of Digital Deli.)

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6Dec/100

EP0291: Thin Man: Nora’s Night Out

Claudia Morgan

Nora is all out night, and breaks a mirror, and asks another man to marry her. Nick suspects she's been drugged.  Things get even more serious when they find a corpse.

Original Air Date: October 6, 1944

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29Nov/101

EP0286: Thin Man: The Case of the Glamorous Clue

Claudia Morgan

A man Nora brought home is murdered. When Nick refuses to believe her because she refuses to believe his story about him solving a crime with the help of an ex-girlfriend Broadway starlet, Nora sets out to solve the case alone.

Original Air Date: June 16, 1944

(Picture: Courtesy of Digital Deli.)

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22Nov/100

EP0281: Thin Man: The Case of the Wandering Corpse

Claudia Morgan

A corpse disappears along with a necklace, Nick bought for Nora as an anniversary present, and its place is another corpse.

Original Air Date: October 10, 1943

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15Nov/100

EP0276: Thin Man: The Strange Case of Professor Wainger

Claudia Morgan

A brother and sister approach Nick Charles to ask him to introduce them to a long-lost Uncle who is working as a scientist for the allies. The scientists claims not to know who they are.

Original Air Date: Sometime in 1942

(Picture: Courtesy of Digital Deli.)

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8Nov/100

EP0271: Lux Radio Theater: After the Thin Man

William Powell

Returning from investigating the "Thin Man" case, Nick Charles again hopes to retire, but finds himself drawn into another mystery when his wife's cousin is approved of murdering her no good husband.

Original Air Date: June 17, 1940

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