- Paperback: 213 pages
- Publisher: Orion (March 1, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0752865331
- ISBN-13: 978-0752865331
- Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 0.7 x 5.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 610 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,446,380 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Maltese Falcon. Dashiell Hammett Paperback – International Edition, March 1, 2005
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About the Author
Dashiell Hammett (1894-1961) was born in Maryland and worked in a number of menial jobs until he became an operative for the Pinkerton Detective Agency. His experiences as a private detective laid the foundations for his writing career. His work includes Red Harvest, The Maltese Falcon, The Glass Key, The Thin Man and some eighty short stories, mostly published in Black Mask magazine.
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The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett is a character-driven story with the been-around-the-block-more-than-once detective, Sam Spade, the driving force in the search for an "ornament" of great value. Sam talks about the truth a lot, because many of the book's characters have a problem with it, but Sam has no problem using his fists to give a lesson about truth and other important concepts. Sam's wisecracks add that much more to his personality.
Hammett's characters' names add to their personalities and descriptions as with Joel Cairo who is from somewhere in the vicinity of Egypt. The dialogue is sharp, witty, and dangerous. This cast of characters is one of the most memorable that I will not soon forget.
The plot is relatively simple, but the characters are what make the novel. Spade is mentally sharp, honest in character, and ready to back up his opinion with his fists. Seemingly having ice water in his veins, Spade is ever the cool customer no matter the odds against him. His client, Brigid, is a double-dealing female willing to switch sides at will when the wind changes directions, obviously used to using her good looks and damsel-in-distress act to get her way. Joel Cairo, the stereotypical homosexual, also seems to be in the game only for himself. The wealthy fat man Casper Gutman and his henchman Wilmer represent the evil antagonists.
The plot is developed slowly. Brigid O'shaughnessy drops by Spades office to hire him to tail her supposed boy friend Floyd Thursby. Brigid is not forthcoming with her real name or the real reason for the job. Miles Archer, Sam's partner, agrees to tail Thursby. Later that evening, Spade receives a call saying that Miles had been killed. Spade becomes a suspect because of his affair with Iva Archer, Miles's wife. Iva actually thinks Sam killed Miles so they could be married. Lt. Dundy, obviously at odds with Spade, is out to bury Sam. However, Spade does have friends in the department, most notably Tom Pohaus. The more Sam tries to get information from Brigid, the more she puts him off.
Enter Joel Cairo. He tries to hire Spade to find a statue of a bird, which we discover is the Malttese falcon. Also, Sam is asked to meet with Gutman, who is also looking to get his hands on the statue. Spade finds out that the statue is a jewel encrusted gold statue of a falcon that has been painted with black enamel to disguise it's value. While the others are trying to use Spade as a pawn to get their hands on the valuable artifact, Sam uses his wits to insert himself into the mix to become a major player. The game's afoot, and only the most cunning player will emerge victorious. Two more murders later, all the main players meet in Spade's apartment to see who will come away with the statue.
The story takes place in San Francisco, which is a fairly large city. But Sam Spade shows the professionalism of his craft by knowing people wherever he goes. This is a classic from a bygone era, and one thing I noticed was that all the men wore hats. I doubt that there will ever be a novel that tops "The Maltese Falcon" in the detective genre.