Thursday, January 1, 2009

Maltese Falcon, The (Dashiell Hammett)

Rating: 5/5
Year: 1929
Genre: Crime
Read again? Yes.

"When you're slapped, you'll take it and like it." Hammett's an utter pleasure to read--almost as much fun as watching Humphrey Bogart playing Sam Spade in the film version--and a vastly more satisfying detective romp than Mercedes Lackey's "Diana Tregarde" series.

Sam Spade is a detective, partnered up with Miles Archer. They agree to do some gumshoe work on a guy named Thursby, paid for by a Miss Weatherly, who's looking for her sister.

Archer and Thursby end up dead, Miss Weatherly is really Miss O'Shaughnessy, and she's trying to hide from some men who are after a mysterious black bird statue. The men are sniffing around, trying to intimidate him into spilling what he knows about the bird. The cops and District Attorney are sniffing around, trying to intimidate Spade into spilling on who killed Archer and Thursby.

He doesn't intimidate well. Keeps his cards close to the vest. One hell of a poker face, right up to the end.

The story's dialog-driven, very tightly put-together. Any description is minimalistic, utilitarian. The dialog is snappy, and Sam Spade is a better wiseass than Han Solo: he doesn't need a walking carpet for punctuation. It's a toss-up, though, between Spade and Philip Marlowe for my favorite gumshoe. Enthusiastic five for five!

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