The Twisted Thing
The Twisted Thing (1966) was Mickey Spillane’s first Mike Hammer novel in two years as he had been busy with his Tiger Mann series in the interim. In this book, which apparently was written much earlier, Hammer is mostly disconnected from the incidents that had occurred in the two previous published installments (The Girl Hunters and The Snake) following the character’s reintroduction in 1962 after a decade-long hiatus.
Old NYPD crony Pat Chambers makes only a brief appearance (there is another compliant cop to serve as Hammer’s legal shield and deus ex machina) and supposed fiancee Velda none at all. Hammer’s conflict with Chambers over Velda, a huge component of The Girl Hunters and still festering somewhat in The Snake, is only hinted at in one line here. On the other hand, Hammer does refer (without elaboration) to the startling conclusion of Spillane’s first Hammer novel, I the Jury, which cemented both Hammer’s reputation as a borderline psychopath and Spillane’s as a writer willing to do anything to make a splash.
Otherwise, The Twisted Thing is pretty much a Hammer standalone novel, which is fine. It is vintage Spillane with its tough guy talk (like all Hammer—and Mann—books, it is narrated in first person), convoluted mystery, convenient clues, plot-advancing coincidences and stupendously preposterous conclusion. The story starts with Hammer’s investigation of the kidnapping of a rich scientist’s 14-year-old son, which soon leads to a number of murders (including one with a meat cleaver), all of which takes place in the small Upstate New York town of Sidon. Along the way Hammer deals with crooked (and murderous) local cops, a lusty dame or two and even some lesbians. Of course he gets knocked around a time or two but always comes up swinging.
Did I enjoy it? Yes…yes I did. Spillane is a master at keeping the plot and suspense going with a combination of new developments and sheer stylistic aplomb. He does so here. The Twisted Thing is one of the best of Spillane’s Hammer books.