Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

cover of The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
Even though I'm a huge fan of mysteries, I've managed to miss some of the classics. For example, I've never read anything by Dashiell Hammett. Yes, I did watch The Maltese Falcon with Humphrey Bogart, which is a very good movie. When I think of Sam Spade, I think of Bogart. Imagine my surprise when I read the book! It seems that Spade is tall. Now that's not something that I associate with Bogart. Except for the height and size issue, whenever Spade would talk, I could hear Bogart's voice. Bogart definitely captured the character of Sam Spade.

So what is the book like? It is very much like the movie. The plot is a tad convoluted. A woman shows up at Spade's and Miles Archer's detective agency, asking for them to follow someone for her, Floyd Thursby. The woman, calling herself Miss Wonderly, claims that her sister left with Thursby, and the woman wants to get her sister to come back home. When Archer turns up shot dead, and Thursby is found dead, Spade finds himself in it thick. The police wonder if Spade had something to do with Archer's murder because Spade has been having an affair with Archer's wife, Iva. Spade tracks down Miss Wonderly, who Spade finds out is really Brigid O'Shaughnessy. Spade can't get a straight story out of O'Shaughnessy, and finds himself getting threatened by Joe Cairo, a partner of O'Shaughnessy, and then Casper Gutman and Gutman's henchman, Wilmer Cook. There are lots of twists and turns while Spade tries to track down the Maltese Falcon, and in the end, all becomes clear. The only thing I was left wondering about is whether the Maltese Falcon might have been real, or if it was always a piece of lead. The Maltese Falcon could be anything that people become obsessed with.

I really enjoyed reading the book. Even with limited evening hours to read, I quickly finished the book. I've only seen the movie two times at the most, and that was a while ago. I couldn't remember much to spoil the story. Although now that I've finished the book, I want to re-watch the movie to see if it really matches up as much as I think it does. I loved Hammett's writing style so much that I've put The Thin Man on hold at the library, and I think I need to read the Continental Op stories too. I can understand how The Maltese Falcon ranked number 56 in the Modern Library 100 best novels.

No comments:

Post a Comment