La llave de cristal, de Dashiell Hammett Es un hecho el que se considere a Dashiell Hammett como padre de la novela negra. Por ello, siempre es una buena noticia que se reedite alguna de sus obras para que las veamos en las mesas de novedades y nos pique la curiosidad. Eso es lo que ha sucedido con La llave de cristal, que Serie Negra le ha quitado el polvo y la ha puesto de nuevo en el punto de mira. Y es que, por desgracia, trata temas demasiado en vigor. Paul y Ned son grandes amigos.
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I made the mistake of taking this to mean bad. I felt justified. The Maltese Falcon doesnt count as it is the novel Ive reread more than any other--by a wide margin.
When in a message board review for a different book I grouped The Glass Key among Hammetts lesser works, I was promptly called out on it. I couldnt argue. I didnt want to argue. When more than one person has more information than you, particularly if it contradicts your position, the correct response is to look into it.
I finally did. Ned Beaumont, unlike most Hammett protagonist, is not a private detective. What is he, then? Well, it is quickly established that he is a gambler. Beyond that, his place in this world is murky. He seems to be a confidant and advisor to Paul Madvig, the man behind the local power structure. In the opening chapter Beaumont borrows a substantial amount of money from Madvig, who reaches into his pocket without hesitation. Considering how much is made of the behind-the-scene manipulations and politics, you would think the arena would be more clearly defined.
And finally there is a murder of fluctuating consequence. Thereafter it is relegated to one of several points of contention in an upcoming election.
Only at the conclusion does the solution carry any importance. You have to get deeper into the novel before you realize The Glass Key is actually about this unnamed town and the behind-the-scenes battle for its control. But this town is not quite that far gone.
It is well on the way, however, which is probably why Paul Madvig is often mistakenly referred to as a Crime Boss--read gangster--by readers. But he never orders murder. He has no qualms in ordering the severe beating of Ned Beaumont. And he is always accompanied by thugs where Paul Madvig walks the streets unattended.
The murder instigates all the actions that follow without having any immediate impact on the principals. The Glass Key follows these skirmishes within the inner workings of this municipality.
It plays out more like a noir movie from the 50s than a novel. Of course, one begot the other. And the story does eventually resolve itself with the solution of the murder. I was wrong to consider this a lesser work. What it strives for--and achieves--is something more. The final betrayal in The Glass Key is as close to justice as this particular world is capable of delivering. It may represent the last chance this unnamed city has to keep from becoming Poisonville. It was all Hammett could do.
He had seen enough real life Poisonvilles in the world around him.
LA LLAVE DE CRISTAL
La llave de cristal