Lisa (Harmonybites)'s Reviews > The Maltese Falcon

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
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's review
Dec 05, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: mystery, ultimate-reading-list, crime, fiction, novels, before-i-die
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Ultimate Reading List
Recommended for: Everyone

As soon as I finished this, I looked up "Sam Spade," the detective protagonist of this novel, on the internet to find out if he was in any other novels by Hammett, and was disappointed to find out the answer was "no." (Although he appears in an authorized prequel by Gores, Spade and Archer, and 3 short stories--I may look those up.)

Hammett and Chandler are often spoken as together forming classic noir, and I read that Chandler's Philip Marlowe was inspired by Sam Spade (The Maltese Falcon being published in 1929), but I'd say the resemblance is pretty superficial--and I greatly prefer Hammett. Hammett's style, for one, while as vividly visual, slangy and with dialogue every bit as snappy, wears a lot better--no similes were abused in the making of this novel. I think the objective point of view helps. There's no mystery about what Marlowe thinks--of women, of homosexuals--all in that intimate first person voice that makes him, to me at least, all the more repulsive.

We never really see inside Spade's mind though--so I stayed intrigued, and am not sure even at the end if he's better or worse than he seems. Also, there's Spade's relationship with his secretary, Effie. It's one thing that keeps him sympathetic--that there's one woman at least for whom he has respect, affection and trust and whose loyalty he's earned.

I don't much like noir--too gritty, and what I knew of Hammett and his politics if anything would make me not want to like this novel--but I did. It was an engrossing read from beginning to end, and if there was another Sam Spade novel, I'd soon be reading it. Since there's not, I guess I'll just have to try The Thin Man with Nick and Nora Charles.
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