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The Maltese Falcon Paperback – July 17, 1989


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 217 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (July 17, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679722645
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679722649
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (354 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,124 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Sam Spade, Dashiell Hammett's archetypally tough San Francisco detective, is more noir than L.A. Confidential and more vulnerable than Raymond Chandler's Marlowe. In The Maltese Falcon, the best known of Hammett's Sam Spade novels (including The Dain Curse and The Glass Key), Spade is tough enough to bluff the toughest thugs and hold off the police, risking his reputation when a beautiful woman begs for his help, while knowing that betrayal may deal him a new hand in the next moment.

Spade's partner is murdered on a stakeout; the cops blame him for the killing; a beautiful redhead with a heartbreaking story appears and disappears; grotesque villains demand a payoff he can't provide; and everyone wants a fabulously valuable gold statuette of a falcon, created as tribute for the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. Who has it? And what will it take to get it back? Spade's solution is as complicated as the motives of the seekers assembled in his hotel room, but the truth can be a cold comfort indeed.

Spade is bigger (and blonder) in the book than in the movie, and his Mephistophelean countenance is by turns seductive and volcanic. Sam knows how to fight, whom to call, how to rifle drawers and secrets without leaving a trace, and just the right way to call a woman "Angel" and convince her that she is. He is the quintessence of intelligent cool, with a wise guy's perfect pitch. If you only know the movie, read the book. If you're riveted by Chinatown or wonder where Robert B. Parker's Spenser gets his comebacks, read the master. --Barbara Schlieper

Review

“Dashiell Hammett . . . is a master of the detective novel, yes, but also one hell of a writer.” –The Boston Globe

The Maltese Falcon is not only probably the best detective story we have ever read, it is an exceedingly well written novel.” –The Times Literary Supplement (London)

“Hammett’s prose [is] clean and entirely unique. His characters [are] as sharply and economically defined as any in American fiction.” –The New York Times

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Customer Reviews

Good characters, great atmosphere and a good plot.
Gaston Olvera
The Maltese Falcon is by no doubt Hammett's best work and one of the best mystery detective stories.
"clp311"
Most of the book --if not the whole narrative --feels like getting inside information.
A. T. A. Oliveira

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

73 of 75 people found the following review helpful By A. T. A. Oliveira on September 26, 2004
Format: Paperback
Alongside Raymond Chandler's Marlowe, Dashiell Hammett's Sam Spade is one of the most famous detectives from American literature. These two writers define what we know as the noir literature. Personally speaking, I found it more pleasant to read Hammett than Chandler. Both writers are great, and deliver the best in the prose, character development, settings and all, but I found "The Maltese Falcon" more interesting than "The Big Sleep" and "Farewell, my Lovely".

Hammett's prose is straightforward. He doesn't waste time with digressions and many descriptions -- only the essential. As a consequence, his novel is packed with action and mystery. It is not a surprise that this author writes with so much authority -- he used to be a private detective. Most of the book --if not the whole narrative --feels like getting inside information.

Hammett's style became a paramount in this genre and he has a major influence on many contemporary writers -- e.g. James Ellroy, Jeffery Deaver, and the French Jean-Christophe Grange among others. Hammett's prose is filled with witty observations on the American way of life -- mostly on the violence and corruption that were permeating the American Society.

Contrary to what many contemporary readers may wrongly assume, the older mystery novel is not as prudish and conservative as it may sound. Hammett's prose is more related to the 20s than the 50s. And in that early period society was looser than after the McCarthyism. Therefore, "The Maltese Falcon" can be a grateful surprise to many readers -- who will find drink, drugs, sex and sexual orientation (the Cairo character's sexual orientation has been largely discussed since the book was published).
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45 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Stone Junction on March 9, 2001
Format: Paperback
Why should anyone read THE MALTESE FALCON?
The classic Bogart flick is a near-perfect redition of Dashiell Hammett's tough-guy dialogue. Director John Huston cast the film so well, that it's impossible to imagine the characters any other way. And in all its twists and turns, the movie captures every nuance of Hammett's plot, and even adds to the mix.
So, again: Why should anyone read THE MALTESE FALCON? The same reason why the movie is so watchable time after time; If you haven't read it, you don't know how good it is, and if you have read it, it's so good, you can't wait to read it again.
In THE MALTESE FALCON, Hammett nails every element of the detective genre so precisely, so superbly, that it's a wonder anyone ever tried to write another detective novel after him. There are simply none better, a detective novel that goes beyond its pulp roots, and enters the realm of 'capital L' Literature.
The plot, for those three people who are unaware, is as follows; Detective Sam Spade has unwittingly become a pawn in a bizarre game of chess. After his partner Miles is killed, he finds himself immersed in a convoluted plot involving a double-dealing moll, a sly fat man, a creepy small man, and a treasured statue of a bird that, if it exists, is worth unimaginable riches. But Spade is unwilling to be used in such a fashion, and starts to set himself up as a player in the scheme, all the while trying madly to figure out exactly what he should do.
I have always believed, in the best of the genre, that the actual plot comes second to the characters, and FALCON is no exception. Hammett's Spade is a remarkable resourceful character, living by a code that even he may not truly believe in.
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55 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Robert James on July 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
"The Maltese Falcon" is better known to most of the public these days from the movie -- which is as close to a perfect adaptation as any movie has ever gotten. The novel is just as wonderful, if not more. There is a certain muscular quality to Hammett's prose that is mirrored by Huston's graphics, but Hammett has to be read to see what marvelous sentences he constructed. There are a few significant differences from the movie: Sam Spade in the book is described as a "blond Satan," and the heroic quality that Humphrey Bogart projected is darker in the novel. There is a long story, told while Brigid and Sam wait, about a man named Flitcraft who disappears; the story is central to understanding Sam's view of humanity. And there is Gutman's daughter, who is cut completely from the film. There are other minor differences, but taken all in all, the movie served the book well. Fans of the movie will love the novel, and fans of the mystery and detective genre who haven't read Dashiell Hammett are missing the genesis of the hard-boiled detective. An outstanding read!
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
The Maltese Falcon is the best detective novel I have ever read. I had seen the movie before I read the book and I must say that this is one of those rare cases where the book is more exciting. Usually if you see the movie first you picture those actors while you are reading, but Dashiell Hammett does such a wonderful job with his description, you can't help but develop a whole new cast in you mind. With nifty phrases like "limp freshness" or "a weary grimace" Hammett vividly portrays every scene without any clutter, making for a fast-paced and exhilarating novel. I rarely had to take the time to re-read sentences unlike many other books that leave you reading the same page three times with their wordiness and deadwood. The originality of the subcharacters is also a high point of the novel. Although Sam Spade is practically a stock character for the books and films of the time period, the other characters in the book are fascinating and undoubtadly original. Joel Cairo, the Levantine, and Wilmer, the rookie hitman, were the two characters I simply could not get enough of while I was reading The Maltese Falcon. Finally, the last reason why I consider this the best detective novel of all time is that it stands the test of time. Originally published in 1930, the book makes as much sense today as it must have seventy years ago. As I read, I pictured the story happening today proving that The Maltese Falcon is a timelss classic. I would recommend this book to any reader out there prepared to stay up into the long hours of the night because they can't get enought of The Maltese Falcon, the best detective novel ever written.
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