Julia Wolf is dead, shot no less than four times. Secretary to the somewhat infamous inventor and all-together missing, Clyde Wynant, everyone is looking to him for answers - his lawyer, the police, his ex-wife, his children...and by plea of letter (and Nora's pushing) Nick Charles, once private detective, current moneyed-by-marriage lush.
As a mystery goes this book was kind of a mess, no? It was always to be thus, most of the players are completely unreliable - the pathological liar, the silly girl, the morbid boy, the two-faced, the greedy, the down-right stupid, the love-sick...there's not a one among them with their head on their shoulders, or with their head in the game so to say. Poor Nick and Nora, surrounded by fools wrecking their drinking holiday, having to put it all together for everyone.
I didn't end up enjoying it for the mystery. I did enjoy it for the humor and banter. Nick and Nora's jovial teasing and Nick's sometimes sarcastic wit directed to those stumbling around him, made the book.
Set during the end days of prohibition, I can only imagine that Nick and Nora were on a holiday to drink, where speaks were a plenty and everyone had closeted booze. I'm sure it was a bit of a social status to have a bottle or two in your home, in your desk drawer, in your boudoir - and all these people were so silly. It certainly read like a comedy to me at those times and I didn't take it very seriously. And I'd have to leave it like that instead of acknowledging that Hammett had his own battles with drink and tumultuous relationships -that he chose to only show the 'best of' in his fictional writing makes a sad sort of sense.
Over all, I will probably read more of Dasheill Hammett - at least his two more popular works, The Maltese Falcon and Red Harvest. I have a hunch those will be more oriented to the genre. The saving grace for me and The Thin Man is that I didn't have any story expectations, just that I knew that Nick and Nora were characters not to be missed.