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The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett


Although we won’t be competing for prizes, Book Worm and I will be participating in our winter scavenger hunt (because it’s fun). If you want to join us, sign up and read the instructions here. For my first task I tried to combine reading challenges by also selecting a 1001 book. I started with item #1: Read a book by an author who shares your birthday. I was born on May 27 along with Dashiell Hammett. So I read the Maltese Falcon. Here’s I thought…

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
First published in: 1930 (1929 published in serialized format)
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Jen (for scavenger hunt challenge)
Find it here: The Maltese Falcon

The Maltese Falcon is a crime thriller that according to the Guardian influenced “everyone from Chandler to Le Carre.”  The novel is on the list of 1001 books to read before you die (thus combining two reading challenges for me) and on the modern library’s list of 100 best novels.

Don’t ask me why, but for the longest time I had a misconception that The Maltese Falcon was about war and fighter pilots. Sometimes I have very odd ideas about what books are about that have no basis in reality. Anyway, I picked up very quickly on the fact that the novel was a detective/crime novel. There are no fighter pilots and while there are a fair number of deaths, no war either. The Maltese Falcon is NOT a plane.

Crime novels and police procedurals are not really my thing and I don’t really like noir. I often find those sorts of books too stereotypically masculine for my tastes. The story of the hard-boiled (usually male) detective that is tough and emotionally stunted, seduces all the women in the book, and saves the day with buckets full of bravado is just not that appealing or interesting to me. I also find the style of these 1920-1903s pulp fiction novels kind of hokey. The over-the-top dialogue irritates me, as do the black and white story-lines and the one dimensional female characters.

The Maltese Falcon does fit some of the stereotypes I had about the genre. It was originally published as a serialized piece in a pulp magazine. The protagonist, Sam Spade, is a private detective who is hired by a mysterious femme fatale to trail someone that she claims is holding her sister in an abusive relationship. Sam is rough around the edges, very physical rather than intellectual, and apparently God’s gift to women since they all want to fall into bed with him (barf). He is the antithesis of Sherlock Holmes (my preferred type of detective). With twists and turns galore, Spade uncovers that at the heart of the mystery and intrigue is a jewel-encrusted treasure.

I can say that I was entertained by the novel. I gave it 3 stars so it clearly had some merit for me. The plot is fast-paced, full of suspense, and creates movie-like scenes in your head when you are reading. It’s no surprise that this book has been successfully adapted into several movie versions including the most famous one with Humphrey Bogart (see clip below).

This book will have great appeal to people who like crime noir. If you are a fan of crime novels, this is a must read because it influenced the whole genre. If you love Raymond Chandler, you’ll love the Maltese Falcon.

Want to try it for yourself? You can buy a copy here: The Maltese Falcon

Have you read The Maltese Falcon? What did you think of it. Do you generally like noir? What books would you recommend?

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Love noir, and this is one of my favorites! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    December 15, 2015
    • Yes, for me it was a genre issue. I don’t like noir so 3 stars was higher than the genre generally gets from me. I can see it being a favorite for people who like the genre

      Liked by 1 person

      December 15, 2015

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