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The Dain Curse (The Continental Op #2)

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  3,948 ratings  ·  203 reviews
The Continental Op is a short, squat, and utterly unsentimental tank of a private detective. Miss Gabrielle Dain Leggett is young, wealthy, and a devotee of morphine and religious cults. She has an unfortunate effect on the people around her: they have a habit of dying violently. Is Gabrielle the victim of a family curse? Or is the truth about her weirder and infinitely mo ...more
Paperback, 233 pages
Published July 17th 1989 by Vintage (first published 1929)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jessica
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
Scott
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
...more
Glenn Russell
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 scient
...more
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
...more
Chaz
Jan 05, 2008 Chaz rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Remy
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Diocletian
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
...more
Ensiform
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.

It
...more
Chris
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,
...more
Cathy DuPont
Well, I've read a number of books written by Dashiell Hammett which I enjoyed a lot more than this one. And of course this will not deter me from reading more of this master of the genre.
Chana
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.
Sarah
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
Erik
Unlike the rest of Hammett's Continental Op stories, which are straight ahead tough guy detective fiction, this book is usually misunderstood because it is an elaborate satire of 1) English cozy mysteries because Hammett was the anti-cozy crime writer, 2) the "weird menace" stories like those of Lovecraft that were his chief competitors in the pulps and 3) the condescension of "true literary" authors towards Hammett's work; ironically, Hammett would die thinking he had never written a Great Amer ...more
Thomas
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
Michael Bacon
This book is utterly ridiculous. The plot is tosh. That said, it's reasonably entertaining tosh, and that's the real truth, isn't it? No. But it is fun to read in a pulpy way.

Of course, any comparisons between The Dain Curse and the Maltese Falcon are going to be unfavourable: the plot of the latter is easier to stomach, pacier and more gripping, if still kooky, and the dialogue is arguably the sharpest to come out of the golden era of the pithy comeback. Add in the almost superhuman protagonist
...more
Radi Radev
Една вълнуваща до задъхване книга, в която авторът ни убеждава, че родово проклятие не съществува. Но има проклети хора, които в името на парите са готови на всякакви престъпления.
Трагичното тук е, че жертва на измисленото проклятие е едно невинно създание, което е превърнато в наркоман от своята леля, и цял живот живее с вината, че е носител на страшно проклятие.
Габриел Легет се оказва сред безсъвестни, алчни хора, които успяват да я обградят с трупове, внушавайки и, че тя е убиецът. Отблъскващ
...more
Mark
THE DAIN CURSE is far from Hammett's best novel--in fact, it's a bit of a mess--but even bad Hammett is worth reading. Like RED HARVEST before it, DAIN feels like three sort-of-related novellas gummed together; HARVEST has a stronger hardboiled thread (including violence and revenge) pulling the whole thing together, whereas DAIN comes across almost as three different genre stories, united only by a peculiar femme fatale who always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Style wins out ...more
Brandon Cooper
Part of the fun of a Hammett novel is the fact that you tend to like elements that you wouldn't typically appreciate: an overcomplicated plot, a protagonist with almost no characterization, absurd plot developments, etc. But here they are in abundance in The Dain Curse, and you don't seem to mind. Sure, there are moments where the separate segments can feel a little disconnected, and most likely these plots originated with Hammett's unused short stories. And it's fair to say that the ending does ...more
Jeff
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
...more
Maco
Of Hammett's five novels, the weakest. This my third time to read it; for the first time really enjoyed it.

(Suggestion: the book is in thirds - take a break between each section or the emotions tend to bleed through.)

The beginnings of quixotic morality / moral dilemma that make Maltese Falcon and Glass Key truly great (to be tossed aside in Thin Man as too much work) makes its first appearance in the op's relationship to Gabrielle.

Much of the book is simply expository - having such a complex plo
...more
Mike
Sep 27, 2010 Mike rated it 4 of 5 stars
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.
Debra
The Continental Op’s (he’s never named) assignment is to investigate the theft of diamonds from the Leggett family home. When one of the two suspects is quickly found murdered, the Leggetts’ story about what really happened begins to unravel. As it does, the past and the present slowly reveal themselves in a quagmire of trouble.

For most novels, this would be enough material to fill one book, but for Dashiell Hammett, this is only the first of three parts that become steadily darker and seedier a
...more
David
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.
Christina
I got this book on sale so I really shouldn't complain about the fact that this edition features a woman in obvious '40s clothing when the book was first published in 1928. Fortunately, the contents of the book were undamaged by the errors of the cover.

There are times when, if you want a particular type of story, you can do no better than to go back to basics. And for my money, after finishing this, one of his lesser-known books, if you're in the mood for noir, there is just no beating Dashiell
...more
Michael A
I puzzled about this one for a bit before writing this review. This is my third Hammett re-read in the last week or so, though I had thought I hadn't read it! I guess it didn't make much of an impression on first reading. The reason I was puzzled is that this work confused me a bit -- especially about what kind of rating I think it should get. I'll get the bad news out of the way first.

First of all, these weirdo characters don't fit in the world of the book quite as well as in Falcon or Red. I
...more
David A
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...
Dfordoom
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.

Tasha Robinson
Easily the weakest of Hammett's novels, this one was published as a serial, and reads like Hammett wrote most of it without a plan, then circled around to try to tie it up in any way possible at the end. The novel starts with a promisingly unusual diamond theft, but before long, everyone near the diamonds is delivering long, rambling, unlikely confessions and then dying. Where Hammett's other novels are gritty and realistic, this one goes into silly, lurid territory involving hypnotist cultists ...more
Alyson
Great book. I was expecting another Thin Man or Sam Spade, but the Continental Op is a unique character in his own right. The original character and format of the book, however, did take a little adjusting. This is split into separate parts, with the body count rising in each. I had the suspect list narrowed down to 2 pretty early on, but I have to admit that it took me longer than the Continental Op to put all of the pieces together (I had it mostly figured out before the denouement, but he had ...more
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16927
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
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More about Dashiell Hammett...
The Maltese Falcon The Thin Man Red Harvest The Glass Key The Continental Op

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