Honestly? I think the awesomeness of Nick and Nora Charles got built up a little too much for me before I read this, because I was expecting two hundred pages of nonstop witty banter, and was mildly disappointed. Sure, Nick is funny in a dry sarcastic way, and Nora is the sassy drunken aunt you never knew you always wanted, but their banter and witticisms only caused the occasional chuckle.
But lucky for me, the book has a lot more going for it than just the banter. It’s a fun, classic 30’s mystery full of crazy dames and shooting and goons and coppers, and the characters drink so much it made my liver hurt just reading about it. Like The Maltese Falcon, there came a point where I had to accept that I had no idea what any of the characters were talking about and just go with the flow until someone explained everything at the end, but I was okay with this. They mystery itself (it includes a string of murders and a suspiciously-absent man) was engrossing, although I guessed the big twist a few pages before it happened.
UPDATE, AFTER WATCHING THE FILM VERSION: I’m classifying this as “The Movie Is Better” shelf, because as I predicted, the movie is much funnier. William Powell and Myrna Loy are darling as Nick and Nora, Mimi is appropriately crazy (although in the movie there’s never any doubt about whether she killed Julia, because we actually see her find the body), Gilbert is adorable, and Nora has an absolutely fabulous collection of outfits. Watch the movie, and read the book only if you’re really curious about the little changes they made in the screenplay.
Verdict: three out of five stars