This book has become the quintessential noir detective story (and film, since the movie version follows the book pretty much word for word). Sam Spade can be credited as the basis for many a hard-nosed detective that came after him and Brigid O’Shaughnessy is the epitome of a femme fatale. At over eighty years old, there are still few detective stories that can come close to topping this one.
The story begins with a beautiful woman needing the detecting services of Sam Spade and his partner, Miles Archer, to follow a man named Floyd Thursby. Soon Miles is dead and Thursby soon after. Spade is a person of interest for police. While avoiding taking the rap for Miles and Thursby, he dives deeper in the seductions and mysteries of Brigid O’Shaugnessy. Soon the detective is embroiled in the hunt of the Maltese Falcon, a historical artifact of priceless value. More murders and intrigue ensue, with the introductions of the effeminate Joel Cairo and the jovial Gutman.
Hammett never met an adjective he didn’t like and with his staccato sentences, you can almost hear him banging this novel out on his typewriter and smell the stuffy odor of too many cigarettes smoked in a small room. His vivid imagery in this book has made me put all of his other novels on my to read list.