Thursday, October 18, 2018
FFB: The Glass Key by Dashiell Hammett
Between the covers is a good murder mystery and great character study.
Main character Ned Beaumont is a part-time gambler and a full-time political operative working for Paul Madvig, a power broker who runs a small American city.
Madvig also owns a club that offers illegal gambling and booze (the story is set at the end of the Prohibition era). Since Madvig has control of everything in town, the police leave him alone. But he has a problem. The son of a U.S. senator is found dead, murdered, just down the street from Madvig’s club. All of Madvig’s people are up for re-election, including the senator. Madvig cannot have this unsolved murder hanging over them. The opposition will eat them all alive.
Ned Beaumont, who found the body, sets out to clear things up. But the harder he works, the more complicated things get and higher the stakes grow.
A bigger mystery than finding the killer is trying to understand Beaumont’s actions. He will walk right into dangerous situations, and at one point takes a hell of a beating from the guys working for the gangster who is trying to oust Madvig.
Beaumont keeps his cards close to his vest, also keeping his plans and reasons for them a secret from the reader until he springs into action.
Madvig himself throws Beaumont several curves that lead to their splitting up professionally and ending their long-time friendship.
Ned continues to work on the murder case, because more is at stake than Madvig and his political pals.
As always, Hammett’s lean, tight prose style and cooler-than-cool main character make The Glass Key a pleasure to read – and re-read.
(For more posts on books, check out Patti Abbott’s blog.)
Posted by Elgin Bleecker at 11:23 PM
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Like you, I haven't read this one but once, while having enjoyed Red Harvest and other of his books 2 or 3 times. Time to rectify that.ReplyDelete
Rick – I hope you read it again, and I’ll be interested to see your take on it.Delete
I've long thought this was Hammett's greatest novel, and felt vindicated when I later learned Hammett pre-dated me on that score. (The chapter involving the hotel/motel owner and his wife and its aftermath is one of the most effectively brutal but understated scenes I've ever read, and which I've never forgotten.)ReplyDelete
Understated is exactly right, Barry. And because it was, it packed an even harder punch. Much of the book is subtle and requires reading between the lines.Delete
It is my favorite Hammett novel as well. LIke you, I felt some vindication that Hammett himself considered it his best work too.ReplyDelete
Thanks for checking out the post, Christophe.Delete
Elgin, I have neglected reading Dashiell Hammett and, in fact, I don't even remember what I have read by the author. Previously read or unread, I should pick up "The Maltese Falcon" and "The Thin Man".ReplyDelete
Prashant - If I made a list of the 10 great American novels of the 20th century, THE MALTESE FALCON would be on it.Delete
Not an author I've read anything from, sad to say. Thanks for the reminder, Elgin.ReplyDelete
Col – Hammett’s earlier stories of “The Continental Op,” were more violent pulp fun. THE MALTESE FALCON is well written and detective Sam Spade is savvy and cool. I hope to read you take on Hammett.Delete