The Black Bird

Kaggsy and Stuck in the Book are hosting this absolutely fabulous event, called the 1930 Book Club; the idea being that we read a book that was published in the year 1930. Now anyone who has even remotely waded through my posts will know that I have a fascination for late 19th century – early 20th century works. Therefore there was no way I could pass this event! The most amazing thing about 1930 was the number of amazing books that were published across a host of genres, from Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh, to Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie, to The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield , to the very first of Nancy Drew books, to Sigmund Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents,  this was a prolific year of brilliant books and some of which will be handed down to posterity as classics! It was really really hard to chose and I was really tempted to read The Diary, though I have already it read it twice, in the last 1.5 years or even Vicarage which I have read like a thousand times already. But I instead, decide to read something which is out of my usual selections and instead turn towards The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett.  I have never been much of a fan of American Hard Boiled Detective genre’s and books like The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler left me wondering why anyone would read them. However, I wanted to keep an open mind, and I picked up a copy from the Kindle stores.


Set in the late 1920s San Francisco, the novel begins with the introduction of our main protagonist Sam Spade (oh! yes! that’s where this starts!), a private detective,who is advised by his secretary, Effie Perine, that a beautiful woman named, Miss Wonderly is here to consult him. Miss Wonderly when shown in, shares she wants to hire Sam Spade to find her runaway younger sister. She tell him that her sister is only 17 and is under the influence of a thug named, Floyd Thursby. Miles Archer, Spade’s partner, agrees to trail Thursby personally on the behest of Miss Wonderly and promises to share a report soon. However that very night, Miles is shot dead, presumably by Thursby. Sam is summoned by the local police to identify Miles and help in the investigation, and while all of this is in play, somebody shots Thursby. Soon Spade is embroiled in high stake game with all kinds of characters all of whom seemingly have different ends and means, and Sam needs to navigate this labyrinth to reach to the truth!

This is not an epic read, this is not a chunkster, but it did take me a while to get to the end. I could not like any of the characters much – Sam Spade is a product of the generation, smooth talking, hand to hand fighting, ladies man. In fact his ladies man persona put me off completely. I understand that the attitudes about woman were very different 90 years ago, but respect I thought is key, all through history. He is cool and in your face and in the end, seems to have some moral compass, which makes him, for ,e mildly redeemable. Miss Wonderly, with her large tears and babes lost in the wood and needing rescue, left me wanting to throw the book at someone. The only remotely interesting character was Mr. Gutman, a businessman with a style and Effie Perine, who seems to be the only genuine character in the book, though her taste in men leaves much to be desired. There are prejudices, a character from Levant, may not only be a villain, but also have sexual preferences, which are to deviant and therefore to be abhorred. The plot however was very interesting and though the book did lack a a-ha moment, the unraveling, peel after peel was very intriguing; and though I felt a few character’s less would made it for a slicker read, it was nevertheless a well thought through puzzle. The author builds the atmosphere beautifully, and as a reader, you are left wondering and second guessing. The language is reflective of the times and the sights and sounds of a 1920s global city with all its linkages comes alive.

All in all, I am glad to have read this one, if for nothing else, I now know. But I do not think I will be re-visiting a Sam Spade novel very soon! In fact, I gave into tempation a picked up Diary again. ( I have earned it!)

Thank You Kaggsy and Stuck in the book for an awesome event! I loved reading for this year and feel like there are so many books which I was not aware of yet again and need to get to them soon!

13 thoughts on “The Black Bird

  1. Thanks for joining in! Neither review of this book this week have been very enthusiastic, so I don’t think I’ll be rushing to read it – do treat yourself to the unmatchable Provincial Lady!

    1. Thank you so much Simon! I did not enjoy it, but then I always think reading is a very personal relationship and well, what does not work for me, may for someone else, so I still urge you to give it shot! Again, many many thanks for an awesome event!

  2. Well, I’m a Hammett fan (and I’m of the opinion that other stories are better than this) though I don’t go much for other hard-boiled books. Yes, it does reflect the views of the time – I guess it’s a slice of history, if nothing else!

    1. I really have the highest respect of your tastes in books so I am sure his other books may be much better. Slice of history is what I was thinking all the while when reading the book, so totally agree with your thoughts there!

  3. your mention of the times it was written for is key… just after the Wall Street crash, no hope for many Americans, anger and depression rife, and fear of the future… how nice to able to wallow in sheer fantasy with implicit violence aimed at the politicians and corporate hogs who caused the financial disaster… Hammett really took advantage of the social ambiance, i think, and was wildly successful for that reason: not having much to do with literary excellence… anyhow, i appreciate your courage in tackling it and i must say, if you think that one was bad, you should try his “Red Harvest”… probably upwards of ten thousand bullets fired at various lowlifes and lingerers on the edges of the law… great post, tho, nice to read a truly different opinion re Hammett…

    1. How are you? I am so sorry to be missing; life as usual took interesting turns! I completely agree with you on the life and times of the book and understand the need to find some vicarious way of settling the scores! I am glad I read it, just so I know, but now I will pass! Hope to chat more often! 😀

  4. Good to see you back again! I wasn’t much impressed with The Big Sleep or The Maltese Falcon and haven’t picked up another book in this genre since. Too many other great reads out there that I have yet to experience. It was nice to read your thoughts though and once again be reminded of how similar we are in our book choices! Hope you’re doing well!

    1. Hey Cleo….it so so good to hear from you! My soul sister, you understand me in so many ways and beyond books! But yeah, these two were not our kinds, not one bit! I am glad to have read it but now I think I am done with this genre! How are you?

    1. hey Stephanie….how have you been!! So good to hear from you; hope all is well! I have been off the net for while as life took over, lol! I think Noir films are a great watch…..but not perhaps a great read!

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