An innocent man dies in "Zigzags of Treachery," but while the detective knows the murderer and the motive, the issue is left to resolve itself when the primary mystery - a tale of extortion - is solved.
For Hammett, violence was not a problem in itself, but rather an indication of deeper evil lurking beneath. He repeatedly leads us down a winding path of calculations and conjectures, based on an intimate knowledge of the crook's modus operandi, into a world where no one really knows the good from the wicked.
And while today we may have become cynical enough to believe that its ubiquity and violence have made crime less detrimental to society, Hammett's stories chill us into remembering that the most serious crimes remain invisible - and there lies the true horror of evil.
This is one of Hammett's best short stories (actually a novelette). It was first published in 1924 and the copyright has not been renewed, thus being in Public Domain in the USA.
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