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The Maltese Falcon (1930)

by Dashiell Hammett

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Sam Spade (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7,492229827 (3.89)605
A treasure worth killing for Sam Spade, a slightly shop-worn private eye with his own solitary code of ethics, a perfumed grifter named Joel Cairo, a fat man named Gutman, and Brigid O'Shaughnessy, a beautiful and treacherous woman whose loyalties shift at the drop of a dime. These are the ingredients of Dashiell Hammett's coolly glittering gem of detective fiction, a novel that has haunted three generations of readers.… (more)
  1. 80
    The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler (InvisiblerMan)
  2. 81
    The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (Cecilturtle, TAir)
  3. 50
    Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler (caflores)
  4. 10
    Spade & Archer by Joe Gores (Cecrow)
    Cecrow: Later prequel by another author
  5. 10
    Maltese Falcon [Picador Film Classics Library] by Richard J. Anobile (bks1953)
  6. 21
    Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem (InvisiblerMan)
  7. 11
    The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (PghDragonMan)
    PghDragonMan: The two detectives have a key trait in common: dogged pursuit of the truth and the truth has many twists along the way.
  8. 12
    Britten and Brülightly by Hannah Berry (lucien)
    lucien: A great modern take on the noir genre in comic form. Berry is successful at both weaving a solid noir tale and having some good fun with genre conventions.
  9. 12
    The Valley of Fear by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (benmartin79)
  10. 02
    Private Midnight by Kris Saknussemm (PghDragonMan)
    PghDragonMan: Dark detective fiction, both radical for their times.
1920s (74)
Read (138)
Noir (2)

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» See also 605 mentions

English (217)  Spanish (5)  Dutch (1)  Finnish (1)  French (1)  Italian (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (227)
Showing 1-5 of 217 (next | show all)

May have been a real thriller a long time ago, but falls flat today. ( )
  cgfaulknerog | May 28, 2020 |
Hammett's novel still seems fresh and startling eighty years later. Sam Spade is no tough guy with a gentle heart; he's just a couple of steps removed from a thug, yet I found myself rooting for him, even as Hammett sets the story up to make me wonder whether or not Spade killed Archer.

Still, I'm wavering somewhere between three-and-a-half and four stars, probably because I'm comparing this to Chandler's Big Sleep and finding Falcon coming up just a bit short. I think I gravitate more towards Chandler's metaphors--there aren't as many single lines of description or dialogue in Falcon that bowl me over as in Chandler. Plot-wise, Hammett may have the edge, and his descriptions of Gutman as a set of pendant, bulbous cones are striking. Brigid wasn't as powerful a character for me as I think Hammett intended...Carmen Sternwood would have eaten her for breakfast. I found myself drawn to Effie Perine more, and I'm guessing many other readers have felt the same. Maybe it's because a lot of things in this novel happen off-stage, like the confrontation at "La Paloma," that don't always get rendered as solidly as I'd wish.

But this is nit-picking to some extent. Hammett created a solid gem here...and without writers like Hammett, there may not have been a Chandler. ( )
  ChristopherSwann | May 15, 2020 |
It had begun like a normal day, but when the charming Miss Wonderly appears in his office asking him to follow someone called Floyd Thursby. He lets his partner Miles Archer do this one and it seems straightforward. Turns out that it isn't going to be easy when Thursby and Archer turn up dead shortly after and the police are there sniffing around for evidence.

A scared Miss Wonderly appears shortly after and begs him to help her. Turns out she is not who she said she was and the two men died because of the missing Maltese Falcon. Others are interested in this too, and Spade is visited by Joel Cairo wh offers him a large sum to find it, before threatening him and searching his office. More armed hoodlums appear, Casper Gutman and Wilmer Cook who are desperate to find this falcon too. As the intensity builds, someone is going to get hurt and Spade does not want it to be him

I am not normally a crime reader, finding a little predictable often. However, this classic private eye novel that spawned a 1000 imitations and I'd thought that I'd give it a go. The two main characters are strong and well supported by the minor characters. I really enjoyed the twists and turns that Hammett includes in the plot and the tensions that he builds in the narrative. A short and well-executed book. ( )
  PDCRead | Apr 6, 2020 |
I'd seen the movie (always a favorite) but hadn't read the book. It's as good as I expected, though I may have lost a bit of the wow of the ending knowing it in advance. ( )
  Nikchick | Mar 21, 2020 |
I'd seen the movie (always a favorite) but hadn't read the book. It's as good as I expected, though I may have lost a bit of the wow of the ending knowing it in advance. ( )
  Nikchick | Mar 21, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 217 (next | show all)
[I]t would not surprise us one whit if Mr. Hammett should turn out to be the Great American Mystery Writer. . . . In short, "The Maltese Falcon" is the best one, outside the . . . polite classes, in Lord knows when.
added by NinieB | editNew York Herald Tribune, Will Cuppy (Feb 23, 1930)
If the locution "hard-boiled" had not already been coined it would be necessary to coin it now to describe the characters . . . .
added by NinieB | editNew York Times (Feb 23, 1930)

» Add other authors (75 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hammett, DashiellAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Angell, OlavTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Meier, RaymondCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
Samuel Spade's jaw was long and bony, his chin a jutting v under the more flexible v of his mouth.
The boy spoke two words, the first a short guttural verb, the second 'you'.
"People lose teeth talking like that." Spade's voice was still amiable though his face had become wooden. "If you want to hang around you'll be polite."
The boy repeated his two words.
Spade by means of his grip on the Levantine's lapels turned him slowly and pushed him back until he was standing close in front of the chair he had lately occupied. A puzzled look replaced the look of pain in the lead-colored face. Then Spade smiled. The smile was gentle, even dreamy. His right shoulder raised a few inches. His bent right arm was driven up by the shoulder's lift. Fist, wrist, forearm, crooked elbow, and upper arm seemed all one rigid piece, with only the limber shoulder giving them motion. The fist struck Cairo's face...
"I don't know where that damned bird is. You don't. She does. How in hell are we going to get it if I don't play along with her?"
Cairo hesitated, said dubiously: "You have always, I must say, a smooth explanation ready."
Spade scowled. "What do you want me to do? Learn to stutter?"
‘Who killed Thursby?’

Spade said: ‘I don’t know.’

Bryan rubbed his black eyeglass-ribbon between thumb and fingers and said knowingly: ‘Perhaps you don’t, but you certainly could make an excellent guess.’

‘Maybe, but I wouldn’t.’

The District Attorney raised his eyebrows.

‘I wouldn’t,’ Spade repeated. He was serene. ‘My guess might be excellent or it might be crummy, but Mrs Spade didn’t raise any children dippy enough to make guesses in front of a District Attorney, an Assistant District Attorney, and a stenographer.’

‘Why shouldn’t you, if you’ve nothing to conceal?’

‘Everybody,’ Spade responded mildly, ‘has something to conceal.’

‘And you have – ?’

‘My guesses, for one thing.'
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Haiku summary
Yes, I'm guilty, but
I'll get free with female wiles.
Whoops, need a Plan B.


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