The Maltese Falcon Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of The Maltese Falcon

A Miss Wonderly shows up at the office of San Francisco private investigator Sam Spade. Her story is that she's looking for her missing 17-year-old sister, who ran off with an older man. Spade, who has been having an affair with the wife of his partner Miles Archer, sends Miles off to shadow the suspect, but Miles is shot dead during the night.
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Sam gets Miss Wonderly to confess her real name is Brigid O'Shaughnessy and that she's on the trail of the Maltese Falcon, a precious, gem-encrusted statue dating from the Middle Ages, which Brigid and her boyfriend stole from their erstwhile partners -- "the Fat Man," Casper Gutman, and a cowardly homosexual named Joel Cairo.

The man Brigid hired to take the Falcon from Hong Kong to San Francisco, ship captain Jacobi, dies in Sam's office while delivering the bird to the detective's safekeeping. Spade must now figure out how to outsmart all the conspiring thieves and pin the murder of his partner on the right party.
The review of this Book prepared by David Loftus

Sam Spade is a private investigator in San Francisco. Spade is visited by Brigid O'Shaughnessy, who hires him under a pretext involving her fictitious sister but really wishes to use him in her quest for the Maltese Falcon, a valuable artifact.

Brigid and Floyd Thursby had acquired the Falcon in Constantinople, managing to shake Joel Cairo, an accomplice, while they fled to Hong Kong. There they hired Captain Jacobi of the La Paloma to transport the Falcon on his ship to San Francisco. In San Francisco Thursby was killed before Captain Jacobi arrived. Brigid realized that Casper Gutman and his bodyguard Wilmer Cook were close on her trail. She was likely to be the next victim. Brigid again sought Spade's help, feeling the need for his protection from Gutman and Joel Cairo, who had rejoined the hunt.

Captain Jacobi finally delivers the bird to Spade's office but dies in the attempt. Spade wraps up the case in his own way, always under pressure from his adversary, Police Lt. Dundy.
The review of this Book prepared by Peter Kenney

In The Maltese Falcon, Hammett secures every ingredient of the detective/ mystery suspense style so directly, so superbly, that it's a wonder anyone ever tried to write another detective novel after him.
Detective Sam Spade has unwittingly become a pawn in a bizarre game of chess. After his partner Miles is killed, he finds himself immersed in a convoluted plot involving a double-dealing moll, a sly fat man, a creepy small man, and a treasured statue of a bird that, if it exists, is worth unimaginable riches. But Spade is unwilling to be used in such a fashion, and starts to set himself up as a player in the scheme, all the while trying madly to figure out exactly what he should do.

The review of this Book prepared by Kathleen

Chapter Analysis of The Maltese Falcon

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Plot & Themes

Composition of Book descript. of violence and chases 20%Planning/preparing, gather info, debate puzzles/motives 30%Feelings, relationships, character bio/development 20%How society works & physical descript. (people, objects, places) 30% How difficult to spot villain?    -   Difficult, but some clues given Time/era of story:    -   1930's-1950's What % of story relates directly to the mystery, not the subplot?    -   80% Kind of investigator    -   hard boiled/private eye Kid or adult book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Crime Thriller    -   Yes Crime plotlets:    -   search for valuable art/artifacts Murder Mystery (killer unknown)    -   Yes General Crime (including known murderer)    -   Yes

Main Character

Gender    -   Male Profession/status:    -   private investigator Age:    -   20's-30's Ethnicity/Race    -   White/American


United States    -   Yes The US:    -   California City?    -   Yes

Writing Style

Accounts of torture and death?    -   moderately detailed references to deaths Explicit sex in book?    -   Yes What kind of sex:    -   vague references    -   descript of kissing Amount of dialog    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog

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Dashiell Hammett Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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