I happen to love mysteries. I also love film noir. Which means that The Maltese Falcon is as close to a perfect book for me as possible.
Like I said, I love mysteries. Some of the earliest books I can remember reading are either Hardy Boys or Three Investigators. From there, I graduated to Sherlock Holmes, going through various other authors, before arriving at the hard boiled detective style of Dashiell Hammett.
The initial case of the novel, simple as it seems, quickly gives way to murder and from there to multiple double-crosses and more killing, all in the pursuit of a legendary black bird. Through it all, private investigator Sam Spade keeps a dogged insistence to what he believes is the right thing, despite being threatened, betrayed, knocked out and hounded by the police.
Even with all that, its a very smooth read and, by the end, everything is (relatively) neatly tied up with little doubt as to who did what. It’s no mean feat and even repeated readings can’t dampen my enjoyment of it.
I’ll be honest, I no longer remember which I discovered first, the book or the 1941 film version featuring Humphrey Bogart. By this stage, the two are so intertwined, I find it virtually impossible to picture Sam Spade, Joel Cairo, Brigid O’Shaughnessy and Kaspar Gutman as anyone other than as shown below.