The Maltese Falcon
Dashiell Hammett Pages: 217 First published:1929
The book: Private Eye Sam Spade gets a visit from a Ms. Wonderly, who wants him to find her sister. However, Ms. Wonderly is not who she claims to be and she’s not really looking for her sister. She’s in search of a mysterious package. All sorts of trouble ensue. Who is Miss Wonderly and what’s in the mysterious package? Can Sam Spade get to the bottom of what’s going on?
You might like it because: It’s a wonderful old-fashioned detective story full of unusual characters, red herrings, and blind alleys that keep you guessing.
What did other people say?
“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
How quickly will you get into the book? The book begins with Ms. Wonderly’s first visit to Sam Spade; I was pulled into the story right away.
You might not like it because: Not surprisingly, since it was written in 1929, the writing has an old-fashioned feel to it. In particular the treatment of and attitude toward women are reflective of the late 1920s and early 1930s. Whilesome readers might find this aspect of the book rather interesting, others may not appreciate the retro attitudes.
Hammett’s writing style is unique, and while very descriptive when it comes to the characters and the action, we get no insight into what is actually going on in the mind of Sam Spade or any other character for that matter. This might frustrate some readers.
What might you read next?
Stick with some crime fiction that involves a bird and read the more modern Magpie Murders,by Anthony Horowitz, set in Great Britain.
Raymond Chandler’s detective Philip Marlowe is believed to have been heavily influenced by Hammett’s Spade. Decide for yourself – read the first book Chandler wrote featuring Marlowe, The Big Sleep.
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