Dashiell Hammett (1894–1961)
From Dashiell Hammett: Crime Stories & Other Writings
Solving a murder mystery is hard enough when a detective hasn’t uncovered a single clue. But it can be even worse when there are simply far too many.
That was the situation the Continental Op faced in Dashiell Hammett’s subtle parody, “The Tenth Clew,” which pokes funs at the reliance upon “clews” of such fictional heroes as Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot. The clever sleuthing in the more traditional detective stories didn’t resemble his own seven years of employment as a Pinkerton operative. “Detecting has its high spots,” he told an interviewer, “but the run of the work is the most monotonous that anyone could imagine. The very things that can be made to sound the most exciting in the telling are in the doing usually the most dully tiresome.”
So it isn’t the abundance of evidence in “The Tenth Clew” that solves the case but drudgery, inquiries, pursuits, and—in the end—pure luck. We present Hammett’s “novelette” in full as our Story of the Week selection.