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Reader's Den: The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
Welcome to the New York Public Library's Reader's Den, a monthly online book discussion. For August, we will be reading Dashiell Hammett’s novel The Maltese Falcon as part of Mystery Summer.
Dashiell Hammett's Maltese Falcon was published in 1930 and is considered to be the classic hard-boiled detective story. At least two film adaptations exist, including the 1941 version starring Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade.
In chapters 1-5, 'Miss Wonderly' hires Sam Spade's agency to find her sister who's supposedly run off with a bad man, Floyd Thursby. Spade agrees to stick with the case even when it becomes clear that things are not what they seem. Eventually Spade learns that Miss Wonderly is really Brigid O'Shaugnessy and that her reasons for trying to track down Thursby have nothing to do with her sister. In the meantime Spade is paid a visit by Joel Cairo, who offers Sam $5,000 for the recovery of an ornament. "The ornament is a statuette," Cairo went on, selecting and mouthing his words carefully, "the black figure of a bird." It's not until the end of Chapter 5 that we finally get a glimpse of the Maltese Falcon. A mystery indeed.
Besides the missing bird, there are other mysteries that come to mind during week one:
- Why does Sam take the case even though he knows Miss Wonderly is lying?
- Sam is a liar too but I think the reader is expected to root for him. Why?
- What style is the novel written in? How does the style contribute to the mood of the story?
Please comment below to join the discussion. Meanwhile, we'll be reading chapters 6-10 and uncovering more clues about the whereabouts of the Maltese Falcon.