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Reader’s Den

Reader's Den: The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett - Week 3


Welcome back to NYPL’s August Reader's Den. We’re three quarters through Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon. In chapters 11-15 things begin to fall into place.

Sam rules out Iva Archer as Miles’ murderer and he meets the final player on the hunt for the falcon, Caspar Gutman (the “Fat Man”). It’s from him that Sam learns the provenance of the Maltese falcon and he leads Gutman to believe he can get the bird; Gutman is willing to pay $10,000 for it. Sam has a couple of run-ins with Gutman’s gunman, Wilmer. Sam arranges for Brigid to stay with Effie Perine for a few days but Brigid instead takes a taxi to the Ferry Building where La Paloma (a boat just in from Hong Kong) ends up in flames.

The heat is also on from the District Attorney who believes Sam is either intentionally hiding or unwittingly guarding potentially useful information. Sam seems to be forming theories but this novel is all setting and dialogue. Without the characters’ internal thoughts, I can’t figure what Sam is seeing. I’m looking forward to some revelations in the final five chapters!

There's still time to catch up with posts from week 1 and week 2, as well as other titles in the Mystery Summer Reader's Den series.


  1. Is Brigid O'Shaughnessy's character more damsel in distress or femme fatale?
  2. At times, Sam seems more on the side of the criminals than the law. Doe Sam follow a moral code? How would you describe it?
  3. What does Sam mean when he says, "The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter." (p. 120)


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The Maqltese Falcon

"The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter!" said Sam Slade. Those who have low characters (who would do anything for money - "cheaper the crook" one who places a high value on very little, because most people consider their reputations more valuable than money. The gaudier the patter. Gaudy means "garish colors,tacky ostentagion." Those who want to attract attention to themselves in order to conceal their own deviousness. (i.e., a clown with a dark side) who adorns himself with hideous cloths, to distract people into thinking what he wears is normal for him. The gaudier the "patter". He runs around in his circus garb like a blight spirit!

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