peteg's blog - noise - books - 2024 03 01 DashiellHammett TheDainCurse

Dashiell Hammett: The Dain Curse. (1929)

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Kindle. The second and last of the "Continental Op" series, inevitable after Red Harvest.

Our private-dick first-person narrator stays local to San Francisco for the first two thirds and then relocates to Quesada which Google Maps suggests is a long way south. It's a bit more Holmes and Watson with an interlocutor who presents as smarter than our main man. He gets off some snappy lines. There's also the Doyle-ish (and unconvincing) theme of a family or blood curse that centres on a young lady of odd appearance; I didn't know what to make of her pointed lobeless ears, small teeth and pastiness. Was this some image of a demon? One might expect that to make her less effective as a femme fatale but Hammett has it otherwise.

There's a bit of everything here: the lethal cults of California, the drugs, the guns, the vapid lifestyles, the Mexicans — it feels so modern! There's even a Trainspotting-esque relinquishing junk (morphine) sequence. Hammett must've felt the plot got away from him as he spends a final chapter explaining it all back to us. Be that as it may he didn't obfuscate the perp too well as I picked them out by about the halfway point without much effort.