Tuesday, February 23, 2016

"The Maltese Falcon" by Dashiell Hammett

Several months ago I stumbled across a collection of old-time radio plays. Many of them were detective stories, and of those there was a large collection of Sam Spade capers. After listening to them, I became fascinated with Spade, learning that he was first made popular with the movie The Maltese Falcon, which was based on the book. After watching the movie, I found the book. 

Summary: Sam Spade is a detective who runs a small agency with his partner Archer. A woman hires them to follow a man so that they can find the client's sister who is with him. Archer offers to tail the man that night and before sunrise, he is dead off the side of the road. The prime suspect is killed later that same night and police suspect that Spade got revenge for the death of his partner.

The trouble with summarizing this story too much more is that it is full of twists and turns as new characters are brought in and new pieces of information are slowly uncovered. Spade is a very clever detective who takes big risks somehow knowing that they are going to payoff, when any other man would have made a safer choice only to be punished for it. He is also very efficient at putting the pieces together and keeping track of what is fact and what is only conjecture.

What I Liked: All of the characters in this story are enchanting. It is clear that they all are missing critical information of one kind or another, but they act boldly trusting that what they do know is enough to see them through. There are a lot of interesting ethical case studies in which people can argue what is the right thing to do in each situation, and there isn't necessarily one answer.

What I Didn't Like: Obviously, there is a cultural difference between 1930 and today. Many of the uncomfortable social relics of the past are preserved in this story.

Rating: Must Read.

Also Read by this Author: None.

Reviewed by: Nick

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