A classic of film noir. Or rather, film noir literature. This is hard boiled mystery at it’s best.
As literature, it’s entertaining, with occasional hints of brilliance; mostly it’s just, well like reading the movie in your head. As I had seen the classic movie with Bogart long ago, I could hardly make out Hammett’s actual writing.
I’ll either assume you’ve seen the movie, or plan to read or see the movie, so I won’t give any thing away here; well not too much. Not enough to ruin the whole thing at least.
There’s murder. Romance; one of the best femme fatale ever. Hints of arson; hints of our more modern day problem of serial shooters. There is a heist. Plenty of sexism, homophobia and the wonderful anachronistic feeling of a different time and place. Sam Spade, the hard boiled detective is the main character. Hints of Hemingway. Hammett loves describing Spade’s emotions and thoughts in terms of facial expressions and facial colours which border on the surreal.
Watching Spade deal with each personality in the book one by one is the main event of the book; Spade’s “all that is man” personality is a bit too strong; he lacks any real weakness. But it is enjoyable to see someone so rooted in his sense of self.
There is a happy ending; the closing image reassures us that this is a normal experience for Spade.
It’s a classic: read it.