Slippery Fingers by Dashiell Hammett (1923)
Tuesday’s Detective Tale Tuesday, April 27, 2021
How about reading an old-fashioned murder mystery? Why do we love murder mysteries with snappy detectives or even bumbling detectives? Maybe killers are fascinating. Maybe cheeky detectives beating after the killers are fascinating. Or maybe we love living vicariously inside the killer or detective’s head for an hour or two. I’m betting on the third reason for most of us. Come on, there must be somebody in your life you’ve had moments where you wanted to kill that person and get away with it. Everybody has a killer inside them according to noir detectives. Noir fiction is filled with greed, lust, or juicy jealousy; femmes fatales in seedy bars, guys drinking cheap gin, and everything is shrouded in cigarette smoke. Nobody does this better than author Dashiell Hammett (except maybe Raymond Chandler, my favorite); the prose is sparse and the storytelling exact.
In Slippery Fingers, we have a dead body, Frederick Grover, stabbed in the throat with a brass paperknife, in the library, and found by the butler Barton. Murder during a burglary, you say? No dice. Blackmail maybe? A lovers quarrel? Naa. How about the butler did it? That cliche will kill the reader. Maybe we should follow the money-spending of Mr. Grover … and fingerprints.
Dashiell Hammett (1894 – 1961) the master of detective fiction, an American writer who created the hard-boiled school of detective fiction. Pulp magazines, films, television, Hammett’s most famous titles are The Glass Key, The Thin Man, The Maltese Falcon. His most memorable characters were the Continental Op, Nick and Nora Charles, and Sam Spade.
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