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The Dain Curse (The Continental Op Book 2)…
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The Dain Curse (The Continental Op Book 2) (original 1932; edition 2011)

by Dashiell Hammett (Author)

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1,0862811,442 (3.65)56
Member:jpmuzzall
Title:The Dain Curse (The Continental Op Book 2)
Authors:Dashiell Hammett (Author)
Info:Vintage Crime/Black Lizard (2011), Edition: Reissue, 241 pages
Collections:Read in 2019
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The Dain Curse by Dashiell Hammett (1932)

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English (24)  Spanish (3)  Portuguese (1)  All languages (28)
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
(Original Review, 1981-03-08)

"We don't do it that way...You're a storywriter. I can't trust you not to build up on what I tell you. I'll save mine till after you've spoken your piece, so yours won't be twisted to fit mine."

In “The Dain Curse” by Dashiell Hammett

"'Are you -- who make your living snooping -- sneering at my curiosity about people and my attempts to satisfy it?'
'We're different...I do mine with the object of putting people in jail, and I get paid for it, though not as much as I should.'
'That's not different...I do mine with the object of putting people in books, and I get paid for it, though not as much as I should.'"

In “The Dain Curse” by Dashiell Hammett

Hammett's main stated intention with the work was to attempt to make something approaching literature out of the detective genre. He clearly based his characters on people he knew but that doesn't preclude him also having other motives and working with other frames of reference. And in the end, this discussion exists outside of what Hammett really intended.

The work he created is dense enough to support multiple readings and resonate with other works of literature, and it is simply interesting to speculate on these.

I don't think any of us with our readings are claiming that Hammett meant it that way- we are just articulating ideas and references which have come to mind while reading “The Dain Curse”. There are plenty of books in the hard-boiled category about which it would be impossible to have these kinds of discussions, but “The Maltese Falcon” is, for a number of us, one which throws up many leads and echoes. I regularly re-read my Hammett. Yes, all 5 novels, including the thoroughly daft “The Dain Curse”… ( )
  antao | Dec 5, 2018 |


The Dain Curse by Dashiell Hammett, father of the modern crime novel, is not only an action-packed 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 encounter:

First-Person Hard Boiled 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 scientist by the name of Edgar Leggett, “His voice was unexpectedly harsh, rasping, though he manner was friendly enough. He was a dark-skinned erect man in his middle forties, muscularly slender and of medium height. He would have been handsome if his brown face hadn’t been so deeply marked with sharp, hard lines across the forehead and from the nostrils down across mouth-corners. Dark hair, worth rather long, curled above and around the broad, grooved forehead. Red-brown eyes were abnormally bright behind horn-rimmed spectacles. His nose was long, thin, and high-bridged. His lips were thin, sharp, nimble, over a small, bony chin. His black and white cloths were well made and cared for.” I quote the detective’s entire study to underscore how careful and laser-sharp observation is required at each step and phase in his solving this complex, convoluted case.

Presto Tempo
Like picking up clues as you read and solving the mystery before reaching the end? Good luck with this one – events are packed so tight and happen so fast, it is like trying to identify each note while listening to a Paganini Caprice. Fortunately, for the mystery-challenged, people like myself, the backstory is given as the end of each of the three parts, along with the Continental Op’s take on the case.

Femme Fatale
What is compelling noir without a femme fatale? This novel features a doozy – Gabrielle. There is something about this slender, large-eyed twenty-year-old that fascinates men and pull them to her like a powerful, deadly magnet. Is it her drug-induced craziness, or her intense personality, made more intense by a family curse, or, then again, her attractive face and exceptionally white, smooth skin? Or, perhaps more likely, a combination of all of these plus that undefinable feminine something.

Novelist Owen Fitzstephan
Hammett probably had lots of fun including a fiction writer in this book, a writer described by the detective as, “A man who pretended to be lazier than he was, would rather talk that do anything else, and had a lot of what seemed to be accurate information and original ideas on any subject that happened to come up, as long as it was a little out of the ordinary.” What kind of ideas does Owen Fitzstephan have on subjects out of the ordinary? I wouldn’t want to give too much away, so I’ll just say we come to see which one of these two – the Continental Op or the talented novelist – has more compassion and a greater grasp of human nature.

America the Violent
Guns are as common as candy – an entire society of people thinking their problems are best solved by shooting others or shooting themselves. Doesn’t matter, law or outlaw, man or woman, young or old, so many people quick to point a gun and pull the trigger. There aren’t as many corpses for the morgue as Hammett's Red Harvest but there are enough to count on more than one hand.

California Fruits and Nuts
By 1928 when Hammett wrote this novel, America was generations removed from a land of traditional believers in traditional religions. Matter of fact, many people relocated to California to escape the ways and beliefs of their parents - so many alternatives; so many sects and cults, so many ways to express yourself in faith and belief and alternate lifestyles. The Continental Op detective has to deal with a California cult calling itself "Temple of the Holy Grail." Here is what he says about the cult and the cult’s leaders: “They brought their cult to California because everybody does, and picked San Francisco because it held less competition than Los Angeles. They didn’t want a mob of converts: they wanted them few but wealthy.” Again, novel as study in the sociology and psychology of gun-crazed America.


American author Dashiell Hammett, 1894 - 1961 ( )
1 vote Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |
Only Dashiell Hammett could start off with the theft of diamonds and move on to murder, bogus religions, morphine addiction and more. The Dain Curse is composed of 3 or 4 Continental Ops stories (depending on which version of the book your are reading). The reson I'm saying this is that this version published in 1929 has three sections while the Big Book of Continental Ops, recently published in 2017 and containing all Continental Ops stories in one book, has four sections to this novel.

Additionally, there are some differences in the volumes. While essentially the same stories, the final paragraph of each book is different. There are some other what are seemingly minor word changes, but there are some that might be major, so I have to read the Big Book version to find out what changes there are.

Anyway, true to Hammett form, the stories are exciting although probably stretching the plots a bit (the murders are pegged to a Dain (family name) curse on its members), the wording is phenomenal and all in all a joy to read. If you at all a pulp mystery fan, or a Dashiell Hammett fan, then you'll know of the Continental Ops detective and want to read all his stories. I'd definitely recommend the Dain Curse. ( )
1 vote EdGoldberg | Nov 20, 2017 |
Book Description
Miss Gabriel Dain Leggett is young and wealthy, with a penchant for morphine and religious cults. She also has an unfortunate effect on the people around her. They die - violently. Is she the victim of a family curse? The short, squat, utterly unsentimental Continental Op, the best private detective around, has his doubts and finds himself confronting something infinitely more dangerous. This is the Continental Op's most bizarre case.

My Review
Dashiell Hammett was a master crime detective novel writer and The Dain Curse proves that. The plot is complex and the characters are interesting. The dialogue is not what I was used to but similar to the film noir classics of Bogart and Cagney. The themes of Hammett's novels are always the same: greed, love, revenge and power. If you haven't read Hammett before I would read The Maltese Falcon first. That is his most famous and better known book. I would highly recommend his books to those who like pulp fiction. ( )
1 vote EadieB | Aug 5, 2017 |

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 scientist by the name of Edgar Leggett, “His voice was unexpectedly harsh, rasping, though he manner was friendly enough. He was a dark-skinned erect man in his middle forties, muscularly slender and of medium height. He would have been handsome if his brown face hadn’t been so deeply marked with sharp, hard lines across the forehead and from the nostrils down across mouth-corners. Dark hair, worth rather long, curled above and around the broad, grooved forehead. Red-brown eyes were abnormally bright behind horn-rimmed spectacles. His nose was long, thin, and high-bridged. His lips were thin, sharp, nimble, over a small, bony chin. His black and white cloths were well made and cared for.” I quote the detective’s entire study to underscore how careful and laser-sharp observation is required at each step and phase in his solving this complex, convoluted case.

Presto Tempo
Like picking up clues as you read and solving the mystery before reaching the end? Good luck with this one – events are packed so tight and happen so fast, it is like trying to identify each note while listening to Paganini’s Caprices. Fortunately, for the mystery-challenged, people like myself, the backstory is given as the end of each of the three parts, along with the Continental Op’s take on the case.

Femme Fatale
What is compelling noir without a femme fatale? This novel features a doozy – Gabrielle. There is something about this slender, large-eyed 20 year old that fascinates men and pull them to her like a powerful, deadly magnet. Is it her drug-induced craziness, or her intense personality, made more intense by a family curse, or her attractive face and exceptionally white, smooth skin, or, perhaps more likely, a combination of all of these plus a feminine quality quite unnameable?

Novelist Owen Fitzstephan
Hammett probably had lots of fun including a fiction writer in this book, a writer described by the detective as, “. . . a man who pretended to be lazier than he was, would rather talk that do anything else, and had a lot of what seemed to be accurate information and original ideas on any subject that happened to come up, as long as it was a little out of the ordinary.” What kind of ideas does Owen Fitzstephan have on subjects out of the ordinary? I wouldn’t want to give too much away, so I’ll just say we come to see who – the Continental Op or the talented novelist – has more compassion and a greater understanding of people.

America the Violent
Guns are as common as candy – an entire society of people thinking their problems are best solved by shooting others or shooting themselves. Doesn’t matter, law or outlaw, man or woman, young or old, so many people quick to point a gun and pull the trigger. There aren’t as many corpses for the morgue as in ‘Red Harvest’ but there are enough to count on more than one hand.

California Fruits and Nuts
By 1928 when Hammett wrote this novel, America was generations removed from a land of traditional believers in traditional religions. Matter of fact, many people relocated to California to escape the ways and beliefs of their parents -- so many alternatives; so many sects and cults, so many ways to express yourself in faith and belief and alternate lifestyles. The Continental Op detective has to deal with a California cult calling itself ‘Temple of the Holy Grail’. Here is what he says about the cult and the cult’s leaders: “They brought their cult to California because everybody does, and picked San Francisco because it held less competition than Los Angeles. . . . They didn’t want a mob of converts: they wanted them few but wealthy.” Again, this aspect of the novel is a study in the sociology and psychology of the time.

( )
1 vote GlennRussell | Feb 16, 2017 |
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Reingold, AlanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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It was a diamond all right, shining in the grass half a dozen feet from the blue brick walk.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679722602, Paperback)

Everything about the Leggett diamond heist indicated to the Continental Op that it was an inside job. From the stray diamond found in the yard to the eyewitness accounts of a "strange man" casing the house, everything was just too pat. Gabrielle Dain-Leggett has enough secrets to fill a closet, and when she disappears shortly after the robbery, she becomes the Op's prime suspect. But her father, Edgar Leggett, keeps some strange company himself and has a dark side the moon would envy. Before he can solve the riddle of the diamond theft, the Continental Op must first solve the mystery of this strange family.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:50 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

A routine investigation of a diamond robbery involves an insurance detective in a bizarre case of murder, and cult worship.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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