Friday, February 02, 2007

"The House in Turk Street" by Dashiell Hammett

Available in The Continental Op by Dashiell Hammett, 1923, 1974. Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, 1992.

Canvassing Turk Street in pursuit of a man, the Op is invited into the home of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Quarre. His interview of the elderly Quarres is interrupted by a man with a gun, certain the Op has come after him. A third of the story takes place with the Op bound and gagged hearing the aftermath of a plot to steal $100,000 in bonds—apparently hatched by his original assailant, called Hook, "a flame-haired she-devil" named Elvira, and "an Anglocized Oriental" named Tai.

Hook is eager to kill the Op, but mastermind Tai doesn't want the mess it would entail. The Op overhears a side plot by Hook and Elvira to run out on Tai, and he soon realizes Elvira is playing Hook and Tai against each other to keep the bonds for herself.

The Op takes his first chance to play on the thieves' mistrust, feeding Tai a plausible story to turn him against Hook and Elvira. "The House in Turk Street" illustrates what can happen—the dramatic potential present—when characters including the Op jump to conclusions.

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