Author: Dasheill Hammett
Link: The Maltese Falcon
“A gripping, riveting, criss-cross tale of changing loyalties and detective genius.”
Maltese Falcon is not just a crime novel; it is a work of art rightly crowned among the top ten crime novels by CWA (crime writer’s association). A vintage of sorts, the story even after being adapted number of times, is still fresh off the stove.
Sam Spade is a hardboiled detective. A tough chap with a long and bony jaw, a characteristic v shaped chin, thick brows and a stoic look in his eyes who sets precedent for detectives that would follow. In the words of Dasheill Hammett, “He looked rather pleasantly like a blond satan.”
Sam Spade and his partner, Miles Archer are hired by Miss Wonderley to track down her sister who eloped with a man named Floyd Thursby. They didn’t trust Miss Wonderley’s story but they trust her money. Things go awry when both Flyod Thursby and Sam’s partner are found murdered. Miss Wonderley turned out to be Brigid O’Shaughnessy and the thing that she’s really after, is a jewel encrusted bird.
The best part of the novel is the way Hammett unveils the plot, chapter by chapter, like a morning sun clearing the fog. The book is divided into chapters with intriguing titles where characters change loyalties with changing state of affairs. Every single character is a suspect with his/her own agenda and secrets.
The novel is very verbose, like there is a need to explain every action with dialogues and conversations. At times it reads like a movie script. But the dialogues and quotes are a piece of literary marvel, so much so that at times, I stopped myself and read the quotes again and again.
The reason why I find this novel a gem of a detective story can best be explained with a small example from the novel itself, “She said she has been asleep but she hadn’t. She had wrinkled up the bed but the wrinkles weren’t mashed down.” Only a writer with a firsthand experience in deduction can write something so ingeniously good.
The Maltese Falcon has all the qualities of a noir crime classic; a story that deals with disorder, disaffection and dissatisfaction, a protagonist with a queer sense of justice and the crime that is reflective of the times in which it is written.