Reviewed by Keith Jones
In my continuing effort to catch up on classics along with the newer books I have been reading, I picked up a copy of the quintessential hard boiled mystery novel, “The Maltese Falcon.” It is interesting contrasting the writing styles of the 1930s with today. Books of that day were often shorter and shallower. This is both good and bad. Today many novels ramble on in order to fill a certain word count. Many books that are 500 pages could comfortably be told in 300 pages. The down side is that shorter books often spend less time getting acquainted with characters than is needed.
This may well be the case with “The Maltese Falcon.” To be such a famous and popular detective, Sam Spade is only lightly developed and is often unsympathetic. What comes across as cold and self centered might be more understandable had Hammett shown us more of Spade’s motivations and background. As it is, Spade’s actions often seem to contradict one another.
In this book, Sam Spade is presented with a client who is not what she appears to be and is soon caught up in the investigation of the murder of his partner, Miles Archer. A cast of shadowy characters are soon introduced and the plot surrounding the search for an antique jewel encrusted statue of a falcon develops.