A slice of spumoni wouldn’t have melted on her now.

As there is a "would", it must be a subjunctive sentence. The "have melted" indicates it is past tense. But why it ends with now?

Is it should be "A slice of spumoni wouldn’t melt on her now."

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    You've left out the important point that this is a descriptor following reported speech! The author is describing a conversation. This is not the subjunctive. "Would" is a conditional here. Chandler is writing fiction in the past tense, but describes it as an observer it that "described present," thus the "now". – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica Oct 23 '16 at 21:25
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    Also: Chandler is making the point that the described person is reacting very coolly to the man who is talking to her, and growing more and more disinterested in him. She grew so cool to him that even spumoni would not have melted on her. We are firmly in the conditional past. - – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica Oct 23 '16 at 21:31
  • @P. E. Dant Thank you. So it means the "now" is just "added by descriptor." It is the time in the long description. And the whole story is wrote in the past tense, So the conditional is used "have melted". That is what I got. – wolfrevo Oct 24 '16 at 14:04

A slice of spumoni wouldn’t have melted on her now.

What a great line. But anyway, recognize that Raymond Chandler is writing in a very relaxed, informal style, to convey the feeling that the action of the story is happening now, as we read it. His writing is also very picturesque with liberal use of metaphor and idiom:

Terry Lennox's left foot was still dangling outside, as if he had forgotten he had one.

You could tell by his eyes that he was plastered to the hairline

The girl gave him a look which ought to have stuck at least four inches out of his back

So I went over and dropped my nickel

By the time he brought my Olds over I felt as if I was holding up a sack of lead.

And so on. This kind of writing forces you to imagine what any missing words or phrases ought to be, or the context in which that kind of statement would fit.

Now, I'm not familiar with the street lingo that would have been common in Chandler's time. I also don't know if Chandler didn't just make it up something that sounded like street talk. But, to me, "a slice of spumoni wouldn't have melted on her" sounds like an idiomatic expression.

In case it's not clear, the figurative meaning of the idiom is to imply that someone has a very cold demeanor, that they are upset and not feeling nice toward someone else. In the story the woman is upset that Terry sold his convertible, because she was looking forward to a drive in it. Now that he doesn't have the car, she doesn't want anything to do with him -- he's useless to her.

Literally, since spumoni is a kind of ice-cream cake, the phrase "a slice of spumoni wouldn't melt on her" suggests that she was so cold, if you were to cut a slice and place it on her skin, it wouldn't melt.

As to why it uses the present perfect, as P.E. Dant mentions in his comment, there is more to the conversation that places the quote in the present, ongoing action. It describes a situation -- the woman growing colder and colder toward Terry -- that progresses as the story moves along.

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    It is not an idiomatic expression. It's just writing and putting a very colorful image in the narrator's voice to avoid a cliché. The main point of good writing is cliché avoidance. And here the author is just being sarcastic. – Lambie Oct 23 '16 at 21:54
  • Chandler is making a play on the expression Butter wouldn't melt in his mouth. – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica Oct 23 '16 at 22:04
  • Dunno, I think more of being ice cold for dead. If you are "ice cold" dead then ice cream would not melt on your body. it would remain frozen. – Lambie Oct 23 '16 at 22:12
  • Butter wouldn't melt ih his mouth is probably unknown to most readers today, but the play on that expression would have been instantly clear to readers in Chandler's day, in particular since he applies his play on words to a woman. See this link – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica Oct 23 '16 at 22:37
  • @Lambie yep, that's why I say it "sounds like" an idiomatic expression that might have been common around that time. Or maybe it's just something Chandler made up as a sarcastic play on another cliche. It's difficult to really explain Chandler's writing without going into a long explanation of "hard-boiled" detective fiction. – Andrew Oct 23 '16 at 22:51

A slice of spumoni wouldn’t have melted on her now

Here's the image: if spumoni (a kind of Italian ice cream) would not melt on her, it means she is cold. If she is that ice cold, which is the cliché to say someone is very cold, she is dead.

Good detective writers want to avoid clichés like: ice cold, dead cold, etc.

Here's the implied full idea: If she had been alive, a slice of spumoni wouldn't have melted on her now.

wouldn't have melted is past conditional used here where there is an implied first clause of the type: If she had been alive....

Structure: If + past perfect, subject + verb + past conditional.

This is a typical narrative description device. Authors don't always write full sentences in this kind of description. It is left to the reader to "fill it in".

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    Whether the character is alive or dead has nothing to do with the expression. The coldness being considered is on the order of cold hearted or the cold shoulder. – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica Oct 23 '16 at 22:43

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