Woman in the Dark
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Woman in the Dark

3.43 of 5 stars 3.43  ·  rating details  ·  630 ratings  ·  56 reviews
On a dark night a young woman seeks refuge at an isolated house. She is hurt and frightened. The man and woman who live there take her in. But their decency is utterly unequipped to deal with the Woman in the Dark, or with the designs of the men who want her.

First published in installments in Liberty magazine and now rediscovered after many years, Woman in the Dark shows D...more
Paperback, 76 pages
Published July 17th 1989 by Vintage (first published 1933)
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I actually had never heard of this "novel" until I saw it at the library while contemplating whether or not to grab "The Big Knockover". A tiny little book with the words "A Novel" on the cover. I am pretty sure there is no way this qualifies as a novel. It is about 76 pages which makes it something in the neighborhood of 25,000 words.

This...story was first published in installments in a pulp magazine in 1933. The next novel Hammett published was "The Thin Man" and he never published another nov...more
Alex
In his introduction, Robert Parker says that he thinks the happy ending of this book is forced. I disagree, and think that the ending is intentionally ambiguous, leaving room for a darker interpretation. In any case, why would you write an introduction to a book that gives the reader a low opinion of the ending before he's even begun reading the thing? Parker also goes on to suggest that "The Thin Man" was a bad book because Hammet had trouble writing about love. In short, what I took away from...more
Jenni Lou
Yes, I read a lot. Quite voraciously, in fact. I often can’t wait to finish a book so I can start on another. This is the fourth or fifth book I have read this week. I read a few series so I haven’t composed any entries for those, as I will probably wait until I finish all the books that have been published in them so far.

Dashiell Hammett is one the prime writers of noir pulp fiction. Slightly minimalist but with a remarkable sight for detail, he crafts dark tales about shadowy characters and un...more
Jim
This short novel was serialized in three installments for Liberty magazine in April 1933. It is a strange sort of love story between an ex-con and a Swiss girl who had taken up with a local landowner with psychotic tendencies. While not quite at the level of his best longer fiction such as The Maltese Falcon, The Dain Curse, and Red Harvest, it makes for a good, if quick read.

Brazil, the ex-con, has claustrophobia and will do anything rather than find himself behind bars again. So he escapes wi...more
Jonathan Mitchell
Minor Dashiell Hammett novella that's actually quite good despite all the bum reviews. I didn't notice any sharp decline in quality as compared to "The Maltese Falcon" or "The Glass Key"; if anything, "Woman in the Dark" is a smoother read than "Falcon", which contained more than a few clunky passages. The pace is brisk, the characters are interesting, and there's lots of atmosphere: the vivid, so-thick-you-could-slice-it kind that Hammett created--like magic--with very simple language. It's not...more
Ralph
After too long an interval, Dashiell Hammett is back to being one of the flavors of the month, with not just his novels and pulp stories back in print, but also his early work (even vignettes written for humor and satire magazines) and his slim corpus of work for magazines less rough than the pulps. A case in point is "Woman in the Dark," a short novel or novelette serialized in three issues of the weekly Liberty Magazine in 1933. The high-circulation magazine was a better venue than the garish...more
Patrick
I find it baffling when a book has an introduction that makes said book sound mediocre. "Here's a book by Hammett," Parker seems to say in the introduction here. "It's not his best, but it's not his worst. It's okay. Meh." Such true-minded introductions are certainly all fine and good, but I wish they came after the book so the reader doesn't go into it thinking, What's the point?


And you know what? Parker is right about this book. It's short and breezy and fast paced but ultimately hits a brick...more
A.K.
I love the man, I do, but this novella is gutless and inchoate. It feels like it was written to pay off a debt: not the same species of abysmal, insatiable, halitoidal maw I like my Hammett written to appease. His beloved authorial amorality thuds more than it vertiginiously resounds in, say, the nihilistic and batshit Dain Curse. The hallmark snappy dialogue is inelasticized and somewhere Nick and Nora (Charles, not the annoying Apple-commercial-indie couple) shed private, single tears into the...more
Nicholas
Woman in the Dark is the last novella Hammett wrote before he died in 1961. The sparse, witty dialogue, plot twists and and hardboiled characters he became so known for after basically inventing the hardboiled genre with the publication of his seminal work, The Maltese Falcon, are all here, but there is a tiredness in his writing that probably reflects the state of his life at the time. Diagnosed with TB after serving in the Army, he began drinking himself to death. Though he was a successful, f...more
Chris
"Three dirty children stopped playing with the skeleton of an umbrella to stare at her as she went with him up the broken steps."

There. That's the sentence I liked from this once trite, serialized short story which--for good reasons--lay unpublished in book form for years.
Katy
This is hardly even a novella. Nevertheless it is highly evocative of a certain noir atmosphere. The plot has some interesting twists and turns. Due to its length there is virtually no filler. Recommended for Hammet fans.
Michael
This novella, serialized in the early thirties, was found in the late eighties and published as a stand-alone. Mildly diverting but not very plotted (it's all rather this-and-then-that-and-then-this until the end), it's easy to see why Hammett didn't bother to expand it into a full novel, and easy to see why Lillian Hellman didn't lump it into the various collections of Hammett's shorter work that were published. The most interesting thing here is the introduction by Robert B. Parker, in which h...more
Kia
Perhaps it's the passage of time, some of the colloquialisms were so outdated that I couldn't readily understand them. Or perhaps this one isn't the finest example of Hammett's work, but this book failed to connect on many levels for me.

In these 75 pages, Hammett manages to convey the most basic character development. Motivations are clear and easy to grasp, but I can see why this was the only "Dangerous Romance" he ever tried writing.

Hammett fans probably loved it. As a fan of his screenplays...more
Georgene
This is the only story by Dashiell Hammett I have ever read. Apparently, he only wrote one more novel after this one (The Thin Man). Not bad, not great.
catechism
This was a very short novel, took me maybe half an hour to read, and although it was definitely Hammettesque, I didn't like it as much as I enjoyed some of his other work. It's probably unfair to compare it to The Maltese Falcon, but I'm liking a lot of the stories in Nightmare Town more. It's got the same waaaay pulled out POV that Falcon did, but I think it's less effective here, because we're supposed to believe that the two main characters more or less want to run away together within five m...more
Sabrina
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dave Peticolas
A short little noir love story, the only love story Hammett ever wrote.
Mike
Oct 30, 2010 Mike rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone
I am a big fan of Hammett's writing not simply because his world view appeals to me, but because his story-telling was superior, if not outright superb.

The man could whip up a mean tale that keeps you spellbound.

I read this book ages ago (along with many others that I have written about) and haven't done so recently, so it's probably time for me to treat myself to it once again.

It doesn't involve Sam Spade or Nick Charles, so the Hollywood fans of Hammett may not care for it, but those seeking w...more
Doretta
4 stars just because he's Hammett. There's no way you can ever accuse this man of too much character development. The introduction said that there was a "happy ending" for the 2 main characters, which I'm glad I read the introduction because I sure didn't infer a happy ending, other than the fact that neither was dead. I like his terseness. He tells us about his characters with very few words, and yet uses that sparsity to show the desperation in them. I need to re-read Poe.
Nancy
Dashiell Hammett was a PI who just happened to write The Thin Man and The Maltese Falcon in the 1930's, along with other books! This is a less well known story, but quite good. Very short, more a novella. There is no detective or murder in this one, but very noir. A woman seeks help from a man, the bad guy comes looking for her, she wants to get away from him, the police are involved. Fairly black and white plot. Could have been a good movie.
Leslie
[New paperback purchased at Sem-Coop, Chicago, Wednesday, February 29.]

This is the kind of book I call "a puddle-jumper," designed to be read during the short leg of a trip. It was atmospheric and cinematic (Part One really read like a stage play), peopled with femmes, floozies, and sexily deadpan cons, but a little tired compared to his novels. Best for Hammett completists, or anyone interested in how to plot a novella.
Jigar Brahmbhatt
It starts off really well. The trademark realistic intrigue that I love Hammett for is intact. Then something happens. Maybe Hammett looses interest, or maybe there are no more ideas left for him. He rushes towards a lame third-act, and the brilliant 2-parts setup that sets the tone goes for a toss. Coz when he's bad, he's really bad. And when he's good, he's up there, untouched. Alas! This one is a disappointment.
Donna
The broad strokes of Hammett's style are visible in this short novella, but it lacks the dense, evocative atmosphere that I associate with his work. The story kind of wanders, I'd only recommend to those who are already fans.

Robert B. Parker's introduction was off-putting and included an odd swipe at The Thin Man.
Bobby
Two and a half stars would be a better, more accurate rating. I'm surprised that this is a later work from Hammett, as it feels weaker than his longer works.

The plot is very melodramatic as are the characters. What saves the story from being a a bit of a throwaway is Hammett's distinct voice and dialogue.

Enjoyable enough for Hammett fans, but wouldn't recommend to those unfamiliar with his work
David
I loved the writing -- the dialogue and the description, specifically -- but the action is kind of flat. I may have missed it, but I never got a good sense of why Luise was running from Kane in the first place, other than he was possibly being cruel to her. And the ending needed a bit more. It didn't feel much like an ending to me. Worth reading for the pure joy of the noir dialogue, though.
Pat
This story reads like a play. It takes place in two rooms, maybe three. It is fast paced and "hard boiled", as they say. The characters are tough and seamy. They are dames and toughs rather than damsels and princes. I can see it filmed in black and white. This is a suspense novella by a master writer written in the thirties. It captures a time.
Kirsten
Really more of a novella than a novel, this brief book is a small masterpiece of noir fiction. Hammett is an adept storyteller, and he packs a big story into just a few pages. My only quibble was the ending; it was just a little too abrupt and open-ended for my tastes, although I'm willing to admit that it might become clearer on a second reading.
McLean
This is more of an extended short story than a novel, and as such doesn't have time to build up characters the same way Hammett's other novels do. That being said, it's still got a lot of the same skillful prose that makes Hammett such a delight to read, and it's fun to be able to go through a book in a single sitting.
Jeanne
So glad I read The Maltese Falcon first or I never would have tried another Hammett. A great sense of noir and reformed bad-boy hero make this short story an enjoyable quick read.

3/15/14: I knew I'd read this before! I should have checked. Luckily my rating stays the same.
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Also wrote as Peter Collinson, Daghull Hammett, Samuel Dashiell, Mary Jane Hammett

Samuel Dashiell Hammett was an American author of hardboiled detective novels and short stories. Among the enduring characters he created are Sam Spade (The Maltese Falcon), Nick and Nora Charles (The Thin Man), and the Continental Op (Red Harvest and The Dain Curse). In addition to the significant influence his nove...more
More about Dashiell Hammett...
The Maltese Falcon The Thin Man Red Harvest The Glass Key The Dain Curse

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