Saturday, April 9, 2011
'The Maltese Falcon' by Dashiell Hammett
Publisher: Orion Books
Length: 213 pages
What the blurb says:
'Voted #1 mystery of all time by the Mystery Writers of America, 'The Maltese Falcon' set the standard by which the genre is judged. Sam Spade is hired by the fragrant Miss Wonderley to track down her sister. When his partner, Miles Archer, is shot while on the trail, Spade finds himself both hunter and hunted: can he track down the jewel-encrusted bird before the Fat Man finds him?'
What's right about this novel?
Before reading this novel, I had watched the film version of 'The Maltese Falcon' and wondered whether the novel could convey the cool, slightly grimy atmosphere, which 'Film Noir' films are known for. I'm pleased to say that the atmosphere was just the same, if not better in the book. It perfectly encapsulates the seedy, under-belly of the criminal world within the 30's.
I love the fact that even though some may see this as sexist in today's society, men are seen as having masculinity and women were more vulnerable in the novel. What I liked about that, is that in novels like 'The Maltese Falcon', this stereotype can be played with. Particulary within this novel, roles within the sexes change quite frequently. The main character Spade, is the perfect example of a 'man's man'. Whilst in most cases I wouldn't have liked this in a male character, with Samuel Spade I really liked it. I found his abrupt, almost arrogant attitude attractive and he had many believable layers to him. I also liked both Miss Wonderley and Spade's secretary Effie Perine because they both were head strong, they used their feminine charms when needed.
I found the plot itself to be well executed and gripping. Due to its complex nature, I never forsaw any of the events that took place during the novel and I constantly wanted to read on. At times I did find the plot confusing, but in some ways, this added to my enjoyment of the novel. This is because like Spade, I was trying to make sense of the events within the novel. I would suggest that if you are going to read this novel to not be in a rush, because this needs to be read with a slower pace to get the most out of it.
What's wrong within this novel?
There isn't too much wrong with this novel in my opinion. I do find that the object that Spade and co are after, a rare statue of a falcon, to be a little silly. Although what I think is more important in this novel, is the wonderful complex web that is weaved during the search, rather than the object itself. Although I feel that the book had a reasonably satisfactory ending, I felt that it could have been a little stronger. Throughout the novel, there is plenty of action and tension. So for me, the ending was a little bit of an anticlimax.
Is this worth a read?
Yes. 'The Maltese Falcon' is a fun escapist novel, which will take you on a journey of many twists and turns. I would really like to read more novels like this one.