Victoria Mixon's Reviews > The Glass Key

The Glass Key by Dashiell Hammett
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Dec 02, 10

Read in August, 2010

The problem with naming your novel after an obscure object that doesn't appear until almost the last page is that it's not really the point of the novel.

Again, Hammett's written a meticulously detailed record of a "detective" (he's not technically a detective, he's a "political fixer," but that's just a surface alteration to Hammett's standard protagonist) on a complex case, this time someone named Ned Beaumont who's best friends with a politician named Paul Madvig.

Again, the detective's extracurricular shenanigans complicate the plot without complicating the mystery. And, again, the violence is gratuitous and over-the-top. Do we need to spend several days in a locked room with Beaumont while he's repeatedly beaten senseless for trying stubbornly to leave, even though his need to leave---even at the risk of his life---doesn't actually lead to solving the mystery?

Yeah. Not really. Hammett just liked violence.

And the cynical love-that's-not-love between Beaumont and his heroine is so thin it's actually misleading. So that kind of misfired.

But it doesn't really matter, because Hammett knew what all great writers know: it's all in the details. And his work is detailed. Factual, believable, telling details. No exposition, just scenes.

And that's why it's still alive and vivid on the page, even after all these years.
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