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The Maltese Falcon

The Maltese Falcon

4.1 97
by Dashiell Hammett

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Sam Spade- the toughest man you'll meet in any novel. His most treacherous, emotional, deadly case- The Maltese Falcon. Never has there been a more intriguing, captivating story of crime, obsession, and murder. Dashiell Hammett's masterpiece novel inspired countless readers, a classic movie, and numerous imitators. But here is the original, in a beautiful


Sam Spade- the toughest man you'll meet in any novel. His most treacherous, emotional, deadly case- The Maltese Falcon. Never has there been a more intriguing, captivating story of crime, obsession, and murder. Dashiell Hammett's masterpiece novel inspired countless readers, a classic movie, and numerous imitators. But here is the original, in a beautiful hardcover edition, ready to take its place in your collection as one of the best. With a new foreword by Robert Crais, this novel is alive with electricity- filled with suspense and action that will make your heart ache, shudder and skip a beat or two. Whether you've only seen the movie, or haven't owned a copy of this definitive book, the true art of Hammett's novel can only be seen through the reading. Sam Spade might have put it this way- "When you're told to buy this book, you'll buy it and like it." But don't let that scare you. Too much.

Editorial Reviews

Gale Research
In 1930, W. R. Brooks wrote in Outlook that The Maltese Falcon "is not only probably the best detective story we have ever read, it is an exceedingly well written novel." That opinion has worn well for more than half a century. The Maltese Falcon is widely considered a standard by which American mysteries are judged.
New York Times Book Review
If the locution 'hard-boiled' had not already been coined it would be necessary to coin it now to describe the characters of Dashiell Hammett's latest detective story. . . there is plenty of excitement. -- Books of the Century; New York Times review, February 1930
Publishers Weekly

The classic noir story is given new life with this full-cast adaptation. When a damsel in distress steps into Sam Spade's office spinning a yarn of a kidnapped sister and shady older man, Spade is doubtful but intrigued. Soon, he's pulled into an international hunt for a bird made of gold that leaves a trail of dead bodies, including his partner. Michael Madsen initially comes on a bit strong as Spade with a tone and growl that goes beyond previous renditions, but by the end, he has appreciatively mellowed. The supporting cast (including Sandra Oh and Edward Herrmann) are fine but unmemorable. The sound effects fading in and out of the production prove so subtle that it's often hard to determine if one is hearing them from the story or from the real world. The occasional musical score is reminiscent of old-time radio and used sparingly. A Vintage paperback. (Dec.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

This full-cast audio dramatization of Hammett's 1930 pulp fiction best seller features performances by actors Michael Madsen, Sandra Oh, and Edward Herrmann. Each narrator reads not only his/her character's lines but the narration associated with that character as well; the resulting abrupt switches can be distracting. The music and other secondary production effects, however, are unobtrusive. A very enjoyable version of a genre classic that is recommended for all popular fiction collections. [Audio clip available through www.blackstoneaudio.com; alternate recordings available from Sound Library: BBC Audiobooks America and Books on Tape; the Vintage pb was deemed "the best hard-boiled PI story and one of the great American novels, period," LJ2/15/05.-Ed.]
—I. Pour-El

From the Publisher
“Dashiell Hammett . . . is a master of the detective novel, yes, but also one hell of a writer.” –The Boston Globe

The Maltese Falcon is not only probably the best detective story we have ever read, it is an exceedingly well written novel.” –The Times Literary Supplement (London)

“Hammett’s prose [is] clean and entirely unique. His characters [are] as sharply and economically defined as any in American fiction.” –The New York Times

Product Details

Turtleback Books: A Division of Sanval
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.12(h) x 0.84(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Samuel Spade's jaw was long and bony, his chin a jutting v under the more flexible v of his mouth. His nostrils curved back to make another, smaller, v. His yellow-grey eyes were horizontal. The v motif was picked up again by thickish brows rising outward from twin creases above a hooked nose, and his pale brown hair grew down-- from high flat temples--in a point on his forehead. He looked rather pleasantly like a blond satan.

He said to Effie Perine: 'Yes, sweetheart?"

She was a lanky sunburned girl whose tan dress of thin woolen stuff clung to her with an effect of dampness. Her eyes were brown and playful in a shiny boyish face. She finished shutting the door behind her, leaned against it, and said: "There's a girl wants to see you. Her name's Wonderly."

"A customer?"

"I guess so. You'll want to see her anyway: she's a knockout."

"Shoo her in, darling," said Spade. "Shoo her in."

Effie Perine opened the door again, following it back into the outer office, standing with a hand on the knob while saying: "Will you come in, Miss Wonderly?"

A voice said, "Thank you," so softly that only the purest articulation made the words intelligible, and a young woman came through the doorway. She advanced slowly, with tentative steps, looking at Spade with cobalt-blue eyes that were both shy and probing.

She was tall and pliantly slender, without angularity anywhere. Her body was erect and high-breasted, her legs long, her hands and feet narrow. She wore two shades of blue that had been selected because of her eyes. The hair curling from under her blue hat was darkly red, her full lips more brightly red. White teeth glistened inthe crescent her timid smile made

Spade rose bowing and indicating with a thick-fingered hand the oaken armchair beside his desk. He was quite six feet tall. The steep rounded slope of his shoulders made his body seem almost conical--no broader than it was thick--and kept his freshly pressed grey coat from fitting very well.

Miss Wonderly murmured, "Thank you," softly as before and sat down on the edge of the chair's wooden seat.

Spade sank into his swivel-chair, made a quarter-turn to face her, smiled politely. He smiled without separating his lips. All the v's in his face grew longer.

The tappity-tap-tap and the thin bell and muffled whir of Effie Perine's typewriting came through the closed door. Somewhere in a neighboring office a power-driven machine vibrated dully. On Spade's desk a limp cigarette smoldered in a brass tray filled with the re-mains of limp cigarettes. Ragged grey flakes of cigarette-ash dotted the yellow top of the desk and the green blotter and the papers that were there. A buff-curtained window, eight or ten inches open, let in from the court a current of air faintly scented with ammonia. The ashes on the desk twitched and crawled in the current.

Miss Wonderly watched the grey flakes twitch and crawl. Her eyes were uneasy. She sat on the very edge of the chair. Her feet were flat on the floor, as if she were about to rise. Her hands in dark gloves clasped a flat dark handbag in her lap.

Spade rocked back in his chair and asked: "Now what can I do for you, Miss Wonderly?"

She caught her breath and looked at him. She swallowed and said hurriedly: "Could you--? I thought--I--that is--" Then she tortured her lower lip with glistening teeth and said nothing. Only her dark eyes spoke now, pleading.

Spade smiled and nodded as if he understood her, but pleas-antly, as if nothing serious were involved. He said: "Suppose you tell me about it, from the beginning, and then we'll know what needs doing. Better begin as far back as you can.

"That was in New York."


"I don't know where she met him. I mean I don't know where in New York. She's five years younger than I--only seventeen--and we didn't have the same friends. I don't suppose we've ever been as close as sisters should be. Mama and Papa are in Europe. It would kill them. I've got to get her back before they come home."

"Yes," he said.

"They're coming home the first of the month."

Spade's eyes brightened. "Then we've two weeks," he said.

"I didn't know what she had done until her letter came. I was frantic." Her lips trembled. Her hands mashed the dark handbag in her lap. "I was too afraid she had done something like this to go to the police, and the fear that something had happened to her kept urging me to go. There wasn't anyone I could go to for advice. I didn't know what to do. What could I do?"

"Nothing, of course," Spade said, "but then her letter came?"

"Yes, and I sent her a telegram asking her to come home. I sent it to General Delivery here. That was the only address she gave me. I waited a whole week, but no answer came, not another word from her. And Mama and Papa's return was drawing nearer and nearer. So I came to San Francisco to get her. I wrote her I was coming. I shouldn't have done that, should I?"

"Maybe not. It's not always easy to know what to do. You haven't found her?"

"No, I haven't. I wrote her that I would go to the St. Mark, and I begged her to come and let me talk to her even if she didn't intend to go home with me. But she didn't come. I waited three days, and she didn't come, didn't even send me a message of any sort."

Spade nodded his blond satan's head, frowned sympathetically, and tightened his lips together.

"It was horrible," Miss Wonderly said, trying to smile. "I couldn't sit there like that--waiting--not knowing what had happened to her, what might be happening to her." She stopped trying to smile. She shuddered. "The only address I had was General Delivery. I wrote her another letter, and yesterday afternoon I went to the Post Office. I stayed there until after dark, but I didn't see her. I went there again this morning, and still didn't see Corinne, but I saw Floyd Thursby."

Spade nodded again. His frown went away. In its place came a look of sharp attentiveness.

"He wouldn't tell me where Corinne was," she went on, hope-lessly. "He wouldn't tell me anything, except that she was well and happy. But how can I believe that? That is what he would tell me anyhow, isn't it?"

"Sure," Spade agreed. "But it might be true."

"I hope it is. I do hope it is," she exclaimed. "But I can't go back home like this, without having seen her, without even having talked to her on the phone. He wouldn't take me to her. He said she didn't want to see me. I can't believe that. He promised to tell her he had seen me, and to bring her to see me--if she would come--this evening at the hotel. He said he knew she wouldn't. He promised to come himself if she wouldn't. He--"

She broke off with a startled hand to her mouth as the door opened.

The man who had opened the door came in a step, said, "Oh, excuse me!" hastily took his brown hat from his head, and backed out.

"It's all right, Miles," Spade told him. "Come in. Miss Wonderly, this is Mr. Archer, my partner.

Miles Archer came into the office again, shutting the door behind him, ducking his head and smiling at Miss Wonderly, making a vaguely polite gesture with the hat in his hand. He was of medium height, solidly built, wide in the shoulders, thick in the neck, with a jovial heavy-jawed red face and some grey in his close-trimmed hair. He was apparently as many years past forty as Spade was past thirty.

Spade said: "Miss Wonderly's sister ran away from New York with a fellow named Floyd Thursby. They're here. Miss Wonderly has seen Thursby and has a date with him tonight. Maybe he'll bring the sister with him. The chances are he won't. Miss Wonderly wants us to find the sister and get her away from him and back home." He looked at Miss Wonderly. "Right?"

"Yes," she said indistinctly. The embarrassment that had gradually been driven away by Spade's ingratiating smiles and nods and assurances was pinkening her face again. She looked at the bag in her lap and picked nervously at it with a gloved finger.

Spade winked at his partner.

Miles Archer came forward to stand at a corner of the desk. While the girl looked at her bag he looked at her. His little brown eyes ran their bold appraising gaze from her lowered face to her feet and up to her face again. Then he looked at Spade and made a silent whistling mouth of appreciation.

Spade lifted two fingers from the arm of his chair in a brief warning gesture and said:

"We shouldn't have any trouble with it. It's simply a matter of having a man at the hotel this evening to shadow him away when he leaves, and shadow him until he leads us to your sister. If she comes with him, and you persuade her to return with you, so much the better. Otherwise--if she doesn't want to leave him after we've found her--well, we'll find a way of managing that."

Archer said: "Yeh." His voice was heavy, coarse.

Miss Wonderly looked up at Spade, quickly, puckering her forehead between her eyebrows.

"Oh, but you must be careful!" Her voice shook a little, and her lips shaped the words with nervous jerkiness. "I'm deathly afraid of him, of what he might do. She's so young and his bringing her here from New York is such a serious-- Mightn't he--mightn't he do--something to her?"

Spade smiled and patted the arms of his chair.

"Just leave that to us," he said. "We'll know how to handle him.

"But mightn't he?" she insisted.

"There's always a chance." Spade nodded judicially. "But you can trust us to take care of that."

"I do trust you," she said earnestly, "but I want you to know that he's a dangerous man. I honestly don't think he'd stop at any-thing. I don't believe he'd hesitate to--to kill Corinne if he thought it would save him. Mightn't he do that?"

"You didn't threaten him, did you?"

"I told him that all I wanted was to get her home before Mama and Papa came so they'd never know what she had done. I promised him I'd never say a word to them about it if he helped me, but if he didn't Papa would certainly see that he was punished. I--I don't suppose he believed me, altogether."

"Can he cover up by marrying her?" Archer asked.

The girl blushed and replied in a confused voice: "He has a wife and three children in England. Corinne wrote me that, to explain why she had gone off with him."

"They usually do," Spade said, "though not always in En-gland." He leaned forward to reach for pencil and pad of paper. "What does he look like?"

"Oh, he's thirty-five years old, perhaps, and as tall as you, and either naturally dark or quite sunburned. His hair is dark too, and he has thick eyebrows. He talks in a rather loud, blustery way and has a nervous, irritable manner. He gives the impression of being--of violence."

Spade, scribbling on the pad, asked without looking up: "What color eyes?"

"They're blue-grey and watery, though not in a weak way. And--oh, yes--he has a marked cleft in his chin."

"Thin, medium, or heavy build?"

"Quite athletic. He's broad-shouldered and carries himself erect, has what could be called a decidedly military carriage. He was wearing a light grey suit and a grey hat when I saw him this morning."

"What does he do for a living?" Spade asked as he laid down his pencil.

"I don't know," she said. "I haven't the slightest idea."

"What time is he coming to see you?"

"After eight o'clock."

"All right, Miss Wonderly, we'll have a man there. It'll help if--"

"Mr. Spade, could either you or Mr. Archer?" She made an appealing gesture with both hands. "Could either of you look after it personally? I don't mean that the man you'd send wouldn't be capable, but--oh!--I'm so afraid of what might happen to Corinne. I'm afraid of him. Could you? I'd be--I'd expect to be charged more, of course." She opened her handbag with nervous fingers and put two hundred-dollar bills on Spade's desk. "Would that be enough?"

"Yeh," Archer said, "and I'll look after it myself."

Miss Wonderly stood up, impulsively holding a hand out to him.

"Thank you! Thank you!" she exclaimed, and then gave Spade her hand, repeating: "Thank you!"

"Not at all," Spade said over it. "Glad to. It'll help some if you either meet Thursby downstairs or let yourself be seen in the lobby with him at some time."

"I will," she promised, and thanked the partners again.

"And don't look for me," Archer cautioned her. "I'll see you all right."

Spade went to the corridor-door with Miss Wonderly. When he returned to his desk Archer nodded at the hundred-dollar bills there, growled complacently, "They're right enough," picked one up, folded it, and tucked it into a vest-pocket. "And they had brothers in her bag."

Spade pocketed the other bill before he sat down. Then he said: "Well, don't dynamite her too much. What do you think of her?"

"Sweet! And you telling me not to dynamite her." Archer guffawed suddenly without merriment. "Maybe you saw her first, Sam, but I spoke first." He put his hands in his trousers-pockets and teetered on his heels.

"You'll play hell with her, you will." Spade grinned wolfishly, showing the edges of teeth far back in his jaw. "You've got brains, yes you have." He began to make a cigarette.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
“Dashiell Hammett . . . is a master of the detective novel, yes, but also one hell of a writer.” –The Boston Globe

The Maltese Falcon is not only probably the best detective story we have ever read, it is an exceedingly well written novel.” –The Times Literary Supplement (London)

“Hammett’s prose [is] clean and entirely unique. His characters [are] as sharply and economically defined as any in American fiction.” –The New York Times

Meet the Author

Dashiell Samuel Hammett was born in St. Mary’s County, Maryland. He grew up in Philadelphia and Baltimore. Hammett left school at the age of fourteen and held several kinds of jobs thereafter—messenger boy, newsboy, clerk, operator, and stevedore, finally becoming an operative for Pinkerton’s Detective Agency. Sleuthing suited young Hammett, but World War I intervened, interrupting his work and injuring his health. When Sergeant Hammett was discharged from the last of several hospitals, he resumed detective work. He soon turned to writing, and in the late 1920s Hammett became the unquestioned master of detective-story fiction in America. In The Maltese Falcon (1930) he first introduced his famous private eye, Sam Spade. The Thin Man (1932) offered another immortal sleuth, Nick Charles. Red Harvest (1929), The Dain Curse (1929), and The Glass Key (1931) are among his most successful novels. During World War II, Hammett again served as sergeant in the Army, this time for more than two years, most of which he spent in the Aleutians. Hammett’s later life was marked in part by ill health, alcoholism, a period of imprisonment related to his alleged membership in the Communist Party, and by his long-time companion, the author Lillian Hellman, with whom he had a very volatile relationship. His attempt at autobiographical fiction survives in the story “Tulip,” which is contained in the posthumous collection The Big Knockover (1966, edited by Lillian Hellman). Another volume of his stories, The Continental Op (1974, edited by Stephen Marcus), introduced the final Hammett character: the “Op,” a nameless detective (or “operative”) who displays little of his personality, making him a classic tough guy in the hard-boiled mold—a bit like Hammett himself.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
May 27, 1894
Date of Death:
January 10, 1961
Place of Birth:
St. Mary, Maryland
Place of Death:
New York
Baltimore Polytechnic Institute

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The Maltese Falcon 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 97 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dashiell Hammett's unique writing style and dramatic twists make this detective novel an unforgettable read. Sam Spade is a combination of Ian Fleming's James Bond and Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot, a character with guts, skill, and one heck of a brain. All in all, this novel is one for the bookshelf.
Guest More than 1 year ago
To the students to criticized Maltese Falcon rather harshly, I say 'Bravo! For expressing yourselves' I do, however, disagree with your poor assessment of this book. Maybe it's because I'm a little older (okay a lot older), and I know what a great contribution this book (and subsequent movie) has been to the Mystery genre and to American Literature. I urge you to read it again when you have a few grey hairs on your head (or are trying to hide them, like I do.) Who knows,if I had read it when I was your age, maybe I wouldn't like it either. Happy New Year and God Bless.
Fiona_Rose More than 1 year ago
Ever heard of Sam Spade? This is the book where he got his start. I had always wanted to read this mystery and finally got around to it when I saw it at Barnes & Noble. THE MALTESE FALCON is full of intriguing plot twists and slippery characters. The Maltese Falcon is a rumor, a legendary sculpture worth a world-round trip to find. Sam Spade gets mixed up in the treasure hunt when it crosses his path in the form of Miss Wonderly. She draws him in with her story, and when Spade investigates he finds that he can trust no one, including his client, and that rumors fly as easily as dandelion seeds. I admit that when I read the truth behind the mystery, I was more surprised than I should have been. It was simply an ending that I had not considered. Nevertheless, THE MALTESE FALCON is written with considerable skill, and it should be a welcome addition to anyone's library.
pod49 More than 1 year ago
Pulp fiction at its best. Not a feel good ending, but the only type of ending that mix of characters could product. Both the detective and a female character in the novel provided some inspiration for two of the characters in my novel. R Hemingway
DANIEL HALEY More than 1 year ago
A great mystery story full of deceitful characters, witty one-liners, strong men, and beautiful women.
-Pentabulous More than 1 year ago
This remains one of the best detective thrillers of the genre. Many have copied the style, but no one comes close to Dashiell Hammett. His story is still fresh and original, in spite of the corniness of the dialog. But the reader should remember, if the dialog seems a bit hackneyed it's because it's been copied by hundreds of lesser writers.
AFaisl More than 1 year ago
The unique style of Hammett's writing just kept me glued to that book, although there were some parts that were hard for me to understand, I still liked it. "The Maltese Falcon" has many interesting and well worked, each on with his own wants, looks and personality. I recommend this book to the people who like mystery/ action books, because of the thinking and puzzling you have to do as a reader. The story has many odds and ends because of how everything gets bound together at some point. At the beginning of the book Mr. Spade (the main character) meets a lady that her name is Summer, but later finds her real name after a lot investigating, which is Brigid O'Shanngeness. He also meets a man named Cairo. Brigid and Cairo know each other and it turned out that Cairo is sent by a man, a man named "G" or, Mr. Gutman, to find Brigid and tell her to hurry and find the thing he told her to, while Mr. Spade didn't know anything that they were talking about. Later Mr. Spade finds out by himself that is was a fat man that paid Cairo who paid Brigit to find the falcon, and Spade needs to find the falcon with police on his back from his partner's murder and Mr. Gutman from the falcon. This book is well spread out with a lot of detail and well thought out. The plot is all but too long and agonizing. The reason I gave this a five star is because of the excitement and how all the characters were all linked together.
DeDeFlowers More than 1 year ago
The Maltese Falcon is one of those rare timeless wonders. The writing style is perfect and to the point, but is detailed in a way that seems to have been lost throughout the years. Even though it is a very short book you get to know the characters so well. Down to the very subtle habits and mannerisms. The whole time I was reading it I couldn't help but comment how real and vivid the characters are. The story itself will keep you thinking and entranced. And the ending is wonderful! It's such a simple book that will be a classic a hundred years from now. It is that timeless. Also, the violence is minimal and the swearing is almost nonexistent. It also is very discreet with sexual situations, making it perfect fun for any age!
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Falcon u there
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