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The Maltese Falcon

About the Book

The Maltese Falcon

Published in 1930, The Maltese Falcon was Dashiell Hammett's third novel in two years. Here he creates a new detective, Sam Spade. When the intriguing Miss Wonderly appears in his office and asks him to tail a fellow named Floyd Thursby, Spade puts his partner, Miles Archer, on the case. In short order, Thursby and Archer turn up dead, and the beautiful woman is back in his office, this time telling him her real name, Brigid O'Shaughnessy, and imploring him, in a dramatic plea, to help her. Spade replies, "You won't need much of anybody's help. You're good. You're very good. It's chiefly your eyes, I think, and that throb you get into your voice when you say things like 'Be generous, Mr. Spade'" [p. 35]. Spade relents, though not before extracting a hefty retainer--almost all her money. Then a "small-boned man" named Joel Cairo calls on Spade. He has his own special interest in Thursby, and to Thursby's relationship to a missing statuette of a black bird. Cairo makes the mistake of pulling a gun on Spade, who easily knocks him out. The encounter leads the detective, all the while clumsily trailed by the young gunsel Wilmer, to the third main character, Casper Gutman. The fat man reveals the value of the Maltese falcon, and the treasure hunt is on.

This greedy and ruthless trio of characters bent on finding the statuette meet their match in Sam Spade. The plot, characters, and dialogue in The Maltese Falcon are perfectly controlled by Hammett, incorporating a vigor and style that became the paradigm for hard-boiled crime fiction.

The Maltese Falcon
by Dashiell Hammett

  • Publication Date: August 29, 2012
  • Paperback: 217 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage
  • ISBN-10: 0679722645
  • ISBN-13: 9780679722649