The Continental Op is a short, squat, and utterly unsentimental tank of a private detective. Miss Gabrielle Dain Leggett is young, wealthy, and a devotee of morphine and religious cults. She has an unfortunate effect on the people around her: they have a habit of dying violently. Is Gabrielle the victim of a family curse? Or is the truth about her weirder and infinitely more dangerous? The Dain Curse is one of the Continental Op's most bizarre cases, and a tautly crafted masterpiece of suspense.
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"... there are times when silence is a poem." - John Fowles, the Magus ^(;,;)^
I think Dashiell Hammett made this novel into a type of literary impossible bottle. I admire his work, and generally followed the puzzled steps, but at the end just think he went a strata too deep. Don't get me wrong, I DO love Hammett and liked this book a lot. It just isn't in the same class as: Red Harvest, The Thin Man or The Maltese Falcon.
The Dain Curse is probably the weakest of Hammett's novels, and definitely the strangest. The overall arc is told via three detective stories: the first is about the Op investigating a diamond burglary, the second has him investigating cult weirdness, and the third has him investigating small-town weirdness, with a short detour that reveals a more compassionate side. The stories, being so different, give the whole thing a off-kilter feel. The characters don't always convince, and there are quite a few of them to keep track of by the end.
That said, I still enjoyed the book. It may not be The Maltese Falcon, or even Red Harvest, but it's still three hardboiled yarns written by one of the greats. It benefits from Hammett's splendid prose, constant plot twists, a surreal atmosphere, and Richard Ferrone's gravelly narration. I don't regret spending a credit on it, and I think that's the main thing.
Hammett's noir fiction language is the most interesting aspect of this audiobook, and Ferrone has a wonderful voice for noir. The unnamed detective goes from one crime to another starting with a diamond theft. The plot elements seem cobbled together and the detective's attempts to understand the connections are tediously laid out.
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