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Review: The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Cover of The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
3 Stars

I was looking for a book featuring a private investigator to complete a reading challenge, so when I saw this was available (and that it was short--it's the end of the year and time was running out), I jumped on it. I've never seen the movie and didn't really have any idea what it was about.

Eh. It was decent enough. Sam Spade, the stereotypical man's man, is hired by Brigid O'Shaughnessy, the stereotypical femme fatale, under false pretenses. She feeds him a line about saving her teenage sister from a married man who will destroy her reputation. When Spade's partner and the man in question both turn up murdered, Sam starts to delve deeper into Brigid's life and lies.

I know I'm not being fair. I know (or assume) that this book is the one upon which all other noir PI novels are based. What seems stereotypical and overdone to me in 2015 was groundbreaking in 1930. But the whole thing did come across as stereotypical and overdone.

Aside from that, the book was irritating to me as a female reader. Again, I know it was a sign of the times, but I hated the way Spade spoke to Brigid and his secretary Effie. "Precious," "Honey," "Darlin." Not meaning a word of it as far as I could tell. He just called them that because he had to call them something. Heaven forbid he should use a woman's name.

The insta-love was laughable! I was wrapping Christmas gifts as I listened, so there's a possibility I missed something, but I truly believe the book took place in just a few days. The crushed feelings! The disbelief! The proclamations of eternal...remembrance! Holy cow, they moved fast back in the day. And speaking of moving fast--sexytimes! There's a discreet fade-to-black, but still--this was published in 1930!

I didn't follow the mystery itself very well. I'm sure that's because I was distracted. But Brigid's constant lying didn't help. I lost track of what the truth actually was, if it was ever even laid out there. I found the resolution to be unsatisfying.

I'm being harsh because the book is still pretty fresh. I'm honestly probably going to forget about it in a few days, hence the forgettable 3 stars. Rating it lower would imply a memorable dislike and I can't say that I felt that strongly about it. If anything, I'll remember that I had fun bashing it in this review.

I haven't had great luck with books narrated by a full cast, but this one was pretty good. I liked the characterizations/voices overall.

The Maltese Falcon is a classic of the crime noir genre, so it's worth reading for that fact alone. I can't say that I found much to recommend it, but it is short so it's not much of a time investment.

Read an excerpt.

Buy The Maltese Falcon at


I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

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