I recently finished Dashiell Hammett’s “The Thin Man”… but really didn’t love it. When I saw this one available through the library on my Libby app, I was excited for some classic detective noir, but that wasn’t what this ended up being. It’s been a while since I’ve read Hammett, and maybe my enjoyment of his “Maltese Falcon” is clouded by my love of the movie.
It may have been just a case of high expectations, but generally think I know what I’m getting into when it comes to classic detective fiction or a typical hard boiled story.
Still, I expected more out of Nora, since I knew a little about the eventual Nick & Nora movie franchise that started from this novel. I went into it thinking she’d be more of an equal player, moving Nick along by investigating herself, but she was barely more than decoration and someone for Nick to talk at.
But I’m also disappointed with the plot; it feels overly complicated—red herrings are necessary but everyone is someone else and everyone who’s working together is really working together with someone else. After a while the tangled web became unnecessarily convoluted.
Maybe it’s a product of its time as far as writing male and female characters, and maybe it’s an attempt by Dashiell Hammett at writing something a little lighter instead of hard boiled crime fiction that didn’t translate so well for me.
All that said, while it may have been a disappointing departure from what I expected from the author and genre, I’ll still read more Hammett.Maybe I’ll like the movies better…
It’s been a couple years since my last visit to the Nightside, and that is the only factor I can think of to explain how disconnected I felt from Simon Green’s supernatural noir series when I jumped back into it with the fourth book, “Hex and the City”.
I cannot imagine that the first three books were as poorly written as this one. They couldn’t have been. I wouldn’t have continued reading them. Would I? Ok, ‘poorly written’ may be unfair, but at the very least, this book was awkwardly written.
Was I struggling to get back into the world of John Taylor and the ‘Nightside’, or was Green struggling to remember how to write these characters himself?
Halfway through the book, I glanced at the cover and saw that ‘Dresden Files’ author Jim Butcher had offered a quote. If that had been on the cover of the first book in this series, I’m not sure I would have started it. “Hex and the City” read very much like “Storm Front” in that it felt more like a fan of supernatural stories trying to prove he’s a bigger fan than you and knows more about the topic than you do, than a coherent and well-written novel. So, if you love Jim Butcher, by all means.
Paragraph long stretches of John Taylor speaking should have been adapted into descriptive expositional paragraphs. Perhaps they originally had been internal monologues in earlier drafts as multiple times Taylor would repeat something he had said half a chapter before to the complete surprise of the very characters he had spoken it to initially.
Too often, Taylor was supposed to be speaking to characters around him and interacting with them, but instead was stiff and spoke at them (or at the reader or just at anyone who had wandered by and might be listening). He wasn’t a part of the scene and he wasn’t moving it forward. This wasn’t descriptive, this wasn’t storytelling. It was bullet points dressed up to look like a novel.
Detective fiction thrives on the smug, smartass private dick, but here, Taylor takes it to a level that brought to mind the fanboy writing style that turned me off the ‘Dresden Files’ after just one book.
The story picked up a bit towards the end and gave us a great answer to the question that’s been building since the first book. But ultimately, I found myself turning the page, not to find out what would happen next, but just to finish the thing and move on to another book.
“Hex and the City” is the fourth book in this series, so I won’t give up on the whole thing just because this one disappointed. There is an end to the ‘Nightside’ series, as Green finished it off with the 12th book, “The Bride Wore Black Leather”. I’d love for him to get back to the page-turning, exciting, supernatural detective fiction that sucked me into this hidden world in the first place so I can see this series through to the end.