I grappled with my review of The Maltese Falcon for I feared I was unduly influenced by my repeated enjoyment of the 1941 film adaption, however, I now conclude this was a damn good book, and one that could have stood on its own, quite nicely, if you please.
Other reads have left me yearning for fine wines and fresh fish. While perusing this gem, I wanted to talk tough, drink whiskey, and (gasp) smoke. If only the voice in my head matched the garbled sounds I foolishly uttered, and the whiskey didn’t burn my throat and well, the cigarettes, yeah, didn’t kill you.
A detective in 1930’s San Francisco is caught in the midst of a group of thieves who are quite capable of murder and who turn on each other faster than a speeding bullet.
The pursuit of their happiness? The Maltese Falcon, of course, that elusive black bird that seems so close, yet not quite within anyone’s grasp.
We meet detectives, the police, the D.A, and the thieves and its anyone’s guess as to who is telling the truth and who ain’t. And here, there is not much truth being told. Lives are lost, affairs are revealed, yet the search for the black bird carries on.
Sam Spade is the enigmatic private detective hired by Miss Wonderly, aka Bridgid O’Shaughnessy whose false tales of woe set off events that cost Spade’s partner his life. Sam smokes, drinks and carries on with women. He should not be liked, but he is. Its easy to see how a woman could be a sucker for this guy. And in the end, he does the right thing.
Sam’s secretary, Effie Perrine, is at the ready for her boss, day or night, weekends too. Oh brother, I should want to slap this lady, but I like her too. She is no nonsense, efficient, smart and quite madly in love with dear old Sam. She is Sam’s good little angel.
Brigid O’Shaughnessy is the quintessential femme fatale. It quickly becomes apparent that what she speaks may be a little less than sincere. Obviously practiced in the art of male seduction, she is caught off guard when she realizes Sam is not so easily played.
Hammett introduces an array of interesting characters with enough detail for distinction. We never get inside of any character’s thoughts, which I believe was intentional to allow for the reader’s conjecture.
Guess I’d have to pour out the whiskey so I could chat it up with Mr. Hammett. I’m certain his early days with Pinkerton’s Detective Agency gave him an assortment of material for his writing.
My rating for The Maltese Falcon is a 9 out of 10.
To see the entire list, visit Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels.
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