Before long, Sam is embroiled in a complex mystery. Finding out that his client is really named Brigid O’Shaughnessy, that she never had a sister, and that several people are in town, hunting for a mysterious black bird. And they are willing to kill each other over it. It’s the plot of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, one of the all-time greatest classics in detective fiction and one of the books that gave rise to the hardboiled detective story.
Which is good, because odds are you will solve the mystery. It’s almost laughably obvious. But so many books, movies, etc. have copied the ending of this book that maybe I’m being harsh. Maybe Hammett was really onto something brilliantly unexpected back in the day. But with all the film noir and hardboiled detective stories that have been inspired by this book (directly or indirectly) we have seen this twist many times before. But like I said, this is a rare book where it does not matter if you solve the mystery or not, or whether you find it obvious. And obvious solution or not, the ending that the solution gives rise to is absolutely brilliant.
All this is achieved without sacrificing the book’s readability. It is a story straight out of the pulps— I could almost hear selections from the score of Raiders of the Lost Ark when a character named Gutman recounts the history of the titular Maltese falcon. It sent shivers of excitement down my spine, and each plot development is a fascinating one that sends you spinning in a completely different direction. This is a helluva read.
Basically, what I’m trying to say is this: if you’ve never read The Maltese Falcon, you’re really missing out. This is a classic for a very good reason. It’s well worth acquainting yourself with it.