Thursday, June 16, 2011


by Dashiell Hammett

This novella appeared as a serial in Liberty in 1933. It is Hammett’s next to last work of long fiction, The Thin Man followed it, and a long terrible writer’s block followed that.

Woman in the Dark is a good, well paced tale of crime and pursuit. Instead of a PI pursing outlaws, the outlaws are unjustly persecuted by corrupt law. The tale opens with a woman, fleeing in the dark, by chance seeking refuge in the cabin of an ex-con named Brazil. One might say Brazil is the Continental Op’s bastard brother, homely, cynical and detached, but with a powerful sense of right and wrong. But chance, a roadhouse brawl that ended in death, put Brazil on the other side of the law.

He meets his match in Luise Fischer. She’s a Euro-trash drifter who knows the rules of the game but insists on breaking them. Luise Fischer (always both names, just as Brazil has one and the Continental Op has none) understands that a woman has to bend without breaking, that a gal without money has to trade what she has to get by. But she only gives so much and only as much as she has to.

The story is a departure from the often cynical view of Hammett’s detective fiction. It is truly a story about love and the heroism that love can call forth. While not as blazing as the manic grandeur of Red Harvest or as tightly plotted as The Maltese Falcon, Woman in the Dark is a story that can grow in a reader’s mind.
-Dave Hardy

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