Has there been a film version?
Yes, starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles. The book actually spawned a very successful series of movies and television shows.
Who are the important characters?
Nick Charles – a retired detective now married to a beautiful and sarcastic heiress
Nora Charles – Nick’s wife, a young socialite
Wynant – an inventor who happens to be slightly crazy
Dorothy Wynant – Wynant’s daughter
Mimi Jorgenson – Wynant’s ex wife, an abusive woman used to getting her own way
Guild – the police chief
Julia Wolf – Wynant’s secretary
McCaulay – Wynant’s lawyer
What’s it about?
When former mob girl turned secretary Julia Wolf is murdered, everyone suspects the off-balanced inventor, Clyde Wynant. He’s her employer and has some violent tendencies – also, he’s nowhere to be found. Nick Charles, former star detective, is convinced to take the case because his wife, Nora, thinks it would be fun. But when the bodies start to pile up the Charles realize they might have gotten more than they bargained for.
Why is this book a classic/bestseller?
It’s a Hammett mystery, and most of those are best sellers. It also made famous Nick and Nora Charles. The movies are classics as well.
Do you recommend I read this book?
Yes, if you enjoy noir mysteries.
How did this book make your list?
I love the movie series, and so this piqued my interest when I found out it was written by Hammett.
Has it won any awards?
“Mimi’s face was becoming purple. Her eyes protuded, glassy, senseless, enormous. Saliva bubbled and hissed between clenched teeth with her breathing, and her red throat – her whole body – was a squirming mass of veins and muscles swollen until it seemed they must burst. Her wrists were hot in my hands and sweat made them hard to hold. Nora beside me with a glass of water was a welcome sight. ‘Chuck it in her face,’ I said. Nora chucked it.” – p 147
This book didn’t get a fair chance with me, I’ll be honest. I love the movie version of this book so much that it’d be nearly impossible for it to match up. In defense of the book, however, there are scenes and dialogue taken directly from the book and put into the movie. Nick’s spirit is captured wonderfully on the screen, although the book makes him out to be a little harder of a character than the movie. Nick, Nora, Mimi, and Guild are pretty much the only characters exactly realized from the page to the screen. The rest of the plot is subtly altered – the book’s twists and turns would be way too much for a movie audience to keep up with. It truly is a fantastic mystery, and while the film’s storyline is superb, it’s nothing detail wise when compared to Hammett’s novel. I appreciated how glamorous the movie made the story come across…otherwise, I don’t think I would have cared for a single character! They were all so mean-spirited and selfish and crazy…I guess how they would be if they were real people. Anyway…overall this was a great read, I just feel obligated to admit I like the movie(s) better.