I met up with my mystery book group to discuss The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett and I think almost everyone liked it. I have to say for a book as well-known as this one and one classified as a classic of noir fiction, I can’t believe how little I knew about it going into it. Actually, the only thing I knew was that the detective was Sam Spade.
This actually made my reading experience even better because I didn’t know what to expect. I figured there would be tough guys and femme fatales and well that held true, but I sort of expected more action. There is a lot that goes on in this relatively short novel but it almost seems like the action takes second place to the atmosphere. Even the mystery didn’t seem to be the main part. I felt it was more about the characters and their motivations and corruption in society.
Compared to other contemporary mysteries written at the time such as those of Agatha Christie, the hard-boiled detective story is quite a departure. The hard-boiled detective, in this case Sam Spade, probably deals more with the seedier aspects of society and often bends the law but still manages to have his own “code” that he lives by. What I found myself thinking as I was reading the story was that I couldn’t trust any of the characters. They all seemed to have something that they were hiding, including Sam.
I am curious how “shocking” these types of stories must have been when they first came out. I can nitpick now and see a lot of stereotypes, especially with the women characters but nevertheless I do think these stories must have shaken the literary scene.
So, I really enjoyed this and am glad to finally say I’ve read something by Hammett. I’d certainly read more noir fiction but I wonder which next. Anyone have any suggestions or favorites of noir fiction?
And, I’m pretty excited about next month’s selection, Voices by Arnaldur Indridason. I’ve been wanting to read this book so I’m looking forward to finding out what’s next for Inspector Erlendur. I’m not sure if I’ll make it to book group as it gets too close to the holiday madness but for now I’m planning on it.