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The Dain Curse (The Continental Op #2)

3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  5,378 Ratings  ·  283 Reviews
Everything about the Leggett diamond heist indicated to the Continental Op that it was an inside job. From the stray diamond found in the yard to the eyewitness accounts of a "strange man" casing the house, everything was just too pat. Gabrielle Dain-Leggett has enough secrets to fill a closet, and when she disappears shortly after the robbery, she becomes the Op's prime s ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published December 5th 2002 by Orion (first published 1929)
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Glenn Russell
Feb 01, 2014 Glenn Russell rated it it was amazing

The Dain Curse by Dashiell Hammett, father of the modern crime novel, is not only an action-filled tale of misdeeds and murder, but a study of 1920s American culture and society. Within the novel’s pages, here is a sampling of what a reader will find:

First-Person Hardboiled Narrator
The unnamed Continental Op detective tells the tale in crisp, exacting language as he describes the people and places and situations he encounters. For example, here is an account of his first-time meeting a scientist
Jack Tripper

Here's a better look at the 1966 Penguin mass-market paperback I have. Sets a totally different tone compared to other editions I've seen.
Towards the end of The Dain Curse, a female character tells the Continental Op affectionately that he is "a monster. A nice one, an especially nice one to have around when you're in trouble, but a monster just the same, without any human foolishness like love in him." While in fact he may have a bit more human foolishness than she gives him credit for, this does sum up the essence of Hammett's anti-hero. Unlike the romantic chess-playing Marlowe and even-keeled Archer who'd follow him, the Conti ...more
Dec 09, 2009 Scott rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime, 1920s
The best books dissolve in your hands. You get so caught up in them you don't recall moving your eyes over the lines of print or turning the pages. When a good read is open you're a thousand miles away and a hundred years ago. Unfortunately, The Dain Curse (1929) isn't that type of read. You never forget it's a book because of how it bounces when you throw it against the wall.

It starts off like dozens of other mysteries: a home is broken into and some diamonds go missing. The Continental Op is c
Hammett's first stab at crime fiction as literature (possibly the first ever), the last appearance of the Continental Op and the most misunderstood of his novels.

While every other Op tale was a straight-ahead tough guy detective story, this book is an elaborate satire of three things: 1) the English tea-cozy mystery novel, where at the climax everyone all the characters are gathered in the parlor while the detective explains what happens, 2) the weird menace horror stories like Lovecraft's that
Dec 17, 2007 Chaz rated it really liked it
Recommended to Chaz by: a san-fran poet

Thank you, Hammett! There's now no longer any doubt in my mind that this man was a master of detective fiction. Gabrielle Leggett is an endearing character who originally I thought was just another femme fatale who has a strong taste for morphine and cults... but this is only on the surface. After about 70 pages I thought I had everything figured out and that this long and tangled crime thriller was simple and direct. not so. The Continental Op is a tough detective and no 'sentimental sap' he is
Nancy Oakes
Really, I'd give it a 3.8, but only because I've read some of Hammett's later works and know the genius he's capable of.

I won't go into plot (if that's what you want, then click here), but I will say that here's something very positive to be said about these old novels; this one was written in 1928 and still has a lot of power to entertain. The Dain Curse first made its appearance in Black Mask magazine as a serial released between October 1928 and January 1929; it was his second Continental Op
Carla Remy
Nov 16, 2014 Carla Remy rated it liked it
When I tried to read this in my mid twenties, I decided I didn't like it, and stopped. When I read it at, like, thirty-one, I thought I really loved it (I was going through a Continental Op hysteria - hey, he's short, fat, forty and nameless - dreamy - but, truly, the pulp hero's humble unattractiveness charms me). This time, I didn't love it so much. The Dain Curse was serialized in Black Mask in 1928-29, and I guess it's obvious. Part One and Part Two are just okay and, oh yeah, horribly racis ...more
Eric Hendrixson
Jan 02, 2012 Eric Hendrixson rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ismael Galvan
Aug 23, 2012 Ismael Galvan rated it it was amazing
The last three books I reviewed were a little heavy on the brain so I decided to read something purely for fun. Fun for me is old school noir. The genre is fascinating because the writing in some cases is both masterful and cheesy. The masterpiece of cheese I picked up was The Dain Curse by the granddaddy of hardboiled crime, Dashiell Hammett. The story is about a detective who is called in to solve the case of missing diamonds. It starts off pretty slow and I’m expecting a straightforward detec ...more
Mar 16, 2009 Chana rated it did not like it
I didn't understand this book. It was bizarre enough to keep me reading but it never seemed like a sequential story. It seemed more like a series of scenarios with plausible or outlandish conclusions that just kept switching like a series of slides on a slide projector. The author may be "the best of the tough school of crime writing" but I am not interested in reading him again.
A.B. Patterson
Apr 07, 2017 A.B. Patterson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a great hard-boiled story. I really enjoyed the read - the Continental Op deals with a true femme fatale here, and it is classic hard-boiled. Purists will no doubt continue to assert that Hammett is the master of the sub-genre, but I will continue to disagree. I find Chandler and Macdonald more pithy and succinct. By comparison, sections of this novel were a little wordy. Nonetheless, a great read, and it is always fascinating to go back to the originator of the hard-boiled sub-genre. Re ...more
Nov 29, 2010 Chris rated it really liked it
The Dain Curse is my second excursion with the Continental Op. I read Red Harvest about a year ago and really enjoyed it. In Red Harvest, the Op is battling gangsters in a mess of a town. Part of me expected the same sort of thing from the Dain Curse. While there were similar gangster-like elements, the overall plot structure was fairly different.

The Dain Curse plot is, at its heart, what you might expect from a robbery/murder mystery story. It involves a lot of intrigue, misdirection, suspense,
Apr 29, 2012 Ensiform rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
In this Continental Op adventure – told in three connected but more easily digestible parts – the Op is hired by an insurance company to look into stolen diamonds. The theft turns out to be an inside job, and the Op uncovers a sordid family history, a past of murder and betrayal that devolves upon the hapless daughter. She is abducted by a murderous cult who use gas and illusions to bend people to their will, but no sooner is she rescued by the Op than her husband is killed on their honeymoon.

Mariano Hortal
Una posible maldición es el hilo conductor de una novela que es ciertamente curiosa en su concepción (tres partes diferenciadas en tres escenarios distintos y delirantes de gran encanto pulp) que demuestran, una vez más, la capacidad del genio para crear tramas enrevesadas y dar posibles soluciones distintas en cada uno de las partes. Lees a Hammett, lees a algunos autores contemporáneos y se te cae el alma a los pies…
Riju Ganguly
Apr 30, 2015 Riju Ganguly rated it really liked it
Continental Op has been an operative who have excelled in operating in the grayer areas of human psyche. But, even after taking his "experiences" in such areas & aspects into account, this was one of the most convoluted mysteries that I had ever read. Later, such apparently disconnected & disparate mysteries would gel together into forming one jaw-dropping mystery in the hands of another master, Ross MacDonald. But this novel IS difficult, but classic read. Recommended.
Oct 23, 2015 Bobbi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-detective
Forgot to mark this as finished! I love everything the Continental Op does, but I must admit this one had me guessing. Every time I thought he had it wrapped up it turned out there was another...twist? Chapter? I don't even know what to call it. Strange book, but much love as always for his writing.
Re-read this after many years to specifically re-visit Hammett's storytelling structure, which as far as I know is still relatively unique: the Continental Op is called in at the beginning of the book to solve a minor diamond theft.

He does so a quarter of the way through, there's a bloody denouement, and everything seems to resolved. But The Op complains there are some unresolved questions... and in the next chapter, he's hired again to investigate something gone afoul for the same family. And a
Jan 02, 2015 Jan rated it really liked it
Navzdory dějovému spádu i úsečnému "telegrafickému" stylu se do Hammetta nezačítá snadno, jelikož spád brzdí neustálé komplikace zápletky a přímočaré vyprávění je natolik hutné (plné postav a dílčích detailů), že rovněž klade nemalý odpor detektivkovému hltání. V Prokletí Dainů to platí dvojnásob, jelikož sestává vlastně ze tří navazujících případů (chronologické propojení). Každý má svůj konec a teprve třetí poslední odhalí jejich vzájemné kauzální propojení (vraha). V každé epizodě se čtenář m ...more
Jun 05, 2014 Noah rated it it was amazing
This is the second work by Hammett that I have read after Red Harvest (which I will review later), and, like the first, was excellent. Reading Hammett has been my first experience with the hardboiled narration style, which I have really enjoyed so far.

The story revolves around a supposed family curse which causes most of the family and friends around a character named Gabriella to be murdered. Of course, being the good detective he is, the Continental Op knows that it is not supernatural, and s
Jan 05, 2009 Chloe rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery-thriller
The Continental Op returns in this lesser known Dashiell Hammett mystery. This time, rather than pitting rival gangs against each other in upstate mining towns he's trying to unravel the mystery of the Dain Curse. Gabrielle Leggett has a problem- everyone close to her keeps turning up dead. It's up to the Op to convince her that she's not a victim of some trans-generational blood curse but actual flesh-and-blood chicanery. Along the way he'll spar with ghosts, get sucked into a good old-fashione ...more
Feb 15, 2014 Sarah rated it really liked it
When I first picked up this book, I wasn't sure how I would respond to it. My sister recommended it to me, so I thought I'd give it a shot, but to be honest at first I was a little skeptical. However, I was surprised to find that I actually really enjoyed The Dain Curse. I liked the old-school mystery novel feel, and it made me feel like I was watching an old movie while I read it. The only problems I had with the novel were that at times it seemed like there were too many characters, and I kept ...more
Jul 24, 2011 Mel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. It started like a typical pulp detective story, there were some stolen diamonds and a detective called in to find them. Then it went off in a completely original and interesting direction, there was murder and young woman who was a morphine addict. Part 2 took place in a cult, where people were having drug induced hallucinations and there was (attempted) human sacrifice. Part 3 was a hunt for the missing woman, and then a nice detailed piece about her quitting the mo ...more
May 18, 2011 Darwin8u rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012
I think Dashiell Hammett made this novel into a type of literary impossible bottle. I admire his work, and generally followed the puzzled steps, but at the end just think he went a strata too deep. Don't get me wrong, I DO love Hammett and liked this book a lot. It just isn't in the same class as: Red Harvest, The Thin Man or The Maltese Falcon.
Sep 12, 2012 Thomas rated it liked it
There is a chronology of Hammett's life at the end of the Library of America edition, and after about 1920 a lot of the entries end with "Drinking heavily." After reading the Dain Curse that's not hard to believe. There are some four-star lines in this Continental Op story, even a few five-star zingers, but with over 40 characters and a plot that spins in circles it's not an easy book to love. But the Op is still the Op, even when Hammett is taking his readers on a maddeningly pixelated trip to ...more
Sep 27, 2010 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Once again The Continental Op sallies forth in novel-length format. I'm not sure why the collective wisdom slots this in at 3.6 (versus higher rankings for "The Continental Op" and "Red Harvest"). Here you have a tale of intrigue that while not quite as screwy as Raymond Chandler's "The Big Sleep" is certainly dark and convoluted. Another fine example of what many ignore as they know Hammett only for "The Maltese Falcon" or "The Thin Man". Pick up a copy and enjoy some excellent writing.
David Ambrose
Sep 11, 2016 David Ambrose rated it did not like it
Shelves: literature
Not really a coherent novel, as sometimes happens with writing which was originally published in serial form. Every now and then, the detective just explains to the reader what's going on through the expository device of having a conversation with his novelist friend; I consider this to be lazy writing. Plus, this book is really quite racist. Overall, I do not recommend it.
David A
Nov 11, 2008 David A rated it liked it
Hammett wrote much better novels than this one. The Dain Curse was one of the few (actually, I can't say for sure it isn't the only) times I correctly predicted the guilty party so early in the story. That put a damper on it, I suppose. I also suppose three stars is too harsh, but when comparing to other Hammett tales...
Aug 06, 2010 David rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: noirboiled
Readers of Red Harvest who suspect that Dashiell Hammett got paid by the corpse will have their suspicions confirmed by The Dain Curse. The chief difference between the novels is that while the town-tamer plot of Red Harvest has a kind of hardboiled dignity, the psychodrama of The Dain Curse is, to use the Continental Op’s own word, “goofy.” And the Op is being kind.
Oct 10, 2008 Dfordoom rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime-mystery
Not as good as Red Harvest or The Glass Key, but it’s still pretty good. I particularly liked the stuff about the cult, The Temple of the Holy Grail. I always enjoy anything connected with cults or “spook” stuff. It’s amusing to consider that even in 1931 California was notorious as the home of cult activity.

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Also wrote as Peter Collinson, Daghull Hammett, Samuel Dashiell, Mary Jane Hammett

Samuel Dashiell Hammett was an American author of hardboiled detective novels and short stories. Among the enduring characters he created are Sam Spade (The Maltese Falcon), Nick and Nora Charles (The Thin Man), and the Continental Op (Red Harvest and The Dain Curse). In addition to the significant influence his nove
More about Dashiell Hammett...

Other Books in the Series

The Continental Op (6 books)
  • Red Harvest
  • The Big Knockover: Selected Stories and Short Novels
  • The Continental Op
  • The Return of the Continental Op
  • Nightmare Town

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“Are you – who make your living snooping – sneering at my curiosity about people and my attempts to satisfy it?" "We're different," I said. "I do mine with the object of putting people in jail, and I get paid for it, though not as much as I should." "That's not different," he said. "I do mine with the object of putting people in books, and I get paid for it, though not as much as I should." "Yeah, but what good does that do?" "God knows. What good does putting them in jail do?" "Relieves congestion," I said. "Put enough people in jail, and cities wouldn't have traffic problems.” 3 likes
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