Book Report on “The Maltese Falcon”
Book Report on “The Maltese Falcon” is a crime novel book that was written first in 1930 by the author Dashiell Hammet. The book belongs to the genre of crime fiction or mystery novel. At the time this was called “hard boiled” crime fiction and it was a very popular type of book. The story centers around the character Sam Spade, who is the protagonist of the book. Sam Spade along with another detective, Miles Archer, is hired by to follow a man named Floyd Thursdby. At first it is just a case of Thursby running off with the man who hired them, Miss Wonderly’s sister. They take the assignment because the pay is good, but they end up with much more than they bargained for.
In order to understand a novel, it first must be placed in its appropriate setting. This involves both the time period and geographical location where the novel takes place. Much of the setting takes place within the city of San Francisco and within meeting places of bars or hotels, such as a room at the Hotel Davenport, within the city or Sam Spade’s apartment. The novel’s action is progressed through dialogue where discoveries about the mystery of the Maltese Falcon and Miss Wonderly’s case are uncovered. The novel was meant to be contemporary for when it was written, so the time setting of the place is at the beginning of the 20th century. Much of the novel’s action takes place at night, which is important for the setting of a mystery novel. It enhances the drama that unfolds since night is associated with more danger than the daytime.
The characters in the novel are the sort of characters that you would expect to find in crime fiction. Even the good guys seem capable of being less than virtuous. Samuel spade from the first sentence of the first chapter is described as a tough individual that a person would not want to mess with. Hammet writes that his “jaw was long and bony, his chin a jutting v under the more flexible v of his mouth.” The author compares him to the devil and says “he looked rather pleasantly like a blond Satan.” Miss Wonderly is a woman who is in Sam’s office at the start of the novel. She is his employer and hires him to follow a man named Floyd Thursby, who she says has left with his sister. But she is actually Brigid O’Shaughnessy . Brigid is a main character who is evil at heart and tricks Sam into believing her. She is a romantic interest but leads him on a trail of lies and deceit. She even murders his friend, Mr. Archer. Gutman is the leader of the thieves who Spade tries to bring to justice. Mr. Cairo is two faced and is the reason that at one point Sam is drugged.
The novel begins with the detective Samuel Spade and his partner Miles archer being visited by a beautiful woman, Miss Wonderly. She comes to assign them the case of following a man called Floyd Thursby. At first this seems like a routine and easy case. The only goal that they are aware of is to find Miss Wonderly’s sister. Since it seems like a fairly easy case to solve, he sends his partner Miles to shadow the man in the hopes that the missing sister will be find. He ends up getting much more than he bargained for and is shot dead. Sam hears about this through a phone call and upset by the loss of his partner, goes to investigate.
Sam is visited again by Miss Wonderly who tells him that she has not told him the whole truth. Her real name is nto even Miss Wonderly, it is Miss Leblanc. Then she tells him again that that is not her name and that her true name is Bridig O’Shaughnessy. After his meeting with Brigid, Sam returns to his office where a man, Mr. Cairo, informs him that he is looking for the Maltese Falcon, the title of the book, and that he is willing to pay $5,000 if it is recovered. Suddenly, he pulls out a gun and a fight breaks out. Cairo is knocked unconscious. The plot from here thickens, with more people getting involved and Sam is unsure about who he can trust. It takes until chapter 6 for Brigid to admit to Sam that she too knows about the falcon. There is history between Cairo and Brigid and as more characters are introduced, it becomes harder for Sam to follow the thread of the mystery and who he can trust and who he cannot.
The overall theme of the book is that greed can destroy and blind people. The whole time the characters in the novel are lying and killing each other over a carved bird because it is an object of value. Sam slowly begins to learn who he can trust through trusting sometimes the wrong people. Added to the theme of greed is the theme of trust. Or rather, it is the theme of not being able to trust anyone. In the end though, Sam survives and the thieves and murderers are arrested and put behind bars.
Hammett, Dashiell. The Maltese falcon. New York: Vintage Books, 1992. Print.