Sam Spade and his partner Miles Archer are approached by “Miss Wonderly” to follow a man who has absconded with her sister to San Francisco. After Archer is shot (along with the man he was following) it transpires that there is no sister at all, and Miss Wonderly aka Bridget O’Shaughnessy had other reasons for wanting protection.
Soon a menagerie of ne’er-do-wells are involved and Spade is up to his neck in trouble, all of which centres around a statue of a bird – a falcon in fact. From Malta, in case you couldn’t guess…
OK, it’s been almost a point of principle on the blog that over the years, I’ve never really dabbled in noir. OK, there was The Chill by Ross MacDonald – that’s 1 out of 1000ish. Indeed, I’ve had so little interest in tackling the genre that I’ve even managed to accuse Raymond Chandler of writing this one, but obviously, I was wrong. But was I wrong about the genre?
Let’s face it, this is supposed to be a cast-iron classic. A benchmark of the genre. Well, I guess this means the genre isn’t for me, because I really didn’t get on with this one.
Basically, a bunch of unpleasant people cause trouble for another unpleasant person – the focus of the tale – which is resolved after a prolonged confrontation with everyone involved. In the process, people are punched, kicked, shot, kissed…
Nope, I really don’t get this. Yes, it’s well-written (although the final section is too long) but without a character to root for – I suppose Spade’s secretary is a good person, but that’s about it – I found it hard to care about anyone and hence about any of the developments concerning the Falcon.
Yes, I suppose there is a whiff of whodunit about one aspect of the tale, but overall, I found in this book exactly what I expected. Well-written but unlikeable characters enmeshed in a plot that seems ultimately a bit pointless. Not for me.