The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon is a classic hard-boiled detective story. Published in 1929, Hammett’s story is a testosterone fueled, old boys’ club of a story. Women are ogled, men die, and not a shred of true emotion is to be found in any of the characters.
[Spoiler Alert: Read no further if you do not want to know about the story line.]
There is plenty of tobacco and alcohol to be consumed while Hammett tells the reader what they eyes of each character say. Sam Spade, the main detective lives in a world where conventional morality is option, but a moral code as revealed at the end is essential. It is okay to sleep with the best friend and partner’s wife. However, that partner must be avenged if he is killed while the two detectives still work together, even if Spade hated the man.
Despite his early 20th century morality, or lack thereof, Spade has a hard-boiled honesty to him. He speaks the truth when it makes others uncomfortable. Every other character in Hammett’s book is really a caricature drawn with precision and without much care for underlying motives beyond the wish to attain piles of money. The femme fatale is predictable and unconvincing as she attempts to play Spade’s nonexistent emotions.
There is very little to do with Malta in the book, though the historical references seem accurate enough as far as they are supposed to.
The ending leaves something to be desired as Spade, by description, seems to have been poisoned, and maybe he has, just not by a chemical that can kill. Still, The Maltese Falcon is a good read if you can get past the maleness and dames of it all.