Complete in one volume, the five books that created the modern American crime novel
In a few years of extraordinary creative energy, Dashiell Hammett invented the modern American crime novel. In the words of Raymond Chandler, "Hammett gave murder back to the kind of people that commit it for reasons, not just to provide a corpse.... He put these people down on paper as they were, and he made them talk and think in the language they customarily used for these purposes."
The five novels that Hammett... read more
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful: Classic crimes, September 7, 2003 Reviewer: la_solinas from Westminster, MD United States He's known best for the creation of Sam Spade and the Maltese Falcon. But Dashiell Hammet was responsible for a lot more -- the hardboiled crime novel as we know it today, with femme fatales, charmingly sinister crooks and cynical antiheroes. "Red Harvest" introduces the Continental Op, cool-as-a-cucumber private detective who arrives in Personvilles (often pronounced "Poisonville") for a client, Donald Wilson, who has been suddenly murdered. Soon the Continental Op finds himself being hired by Donald's father Elihu to clean up Personville. To do so, he'll have to fight fire with fire, and play dirty with the many dangerous crooks. "The Dain Curse" starts off with an ordinary diamond heist where things don't seem quite right. It soon leads the Continental Op to Gabrielle Leggett, a young woman with a drug habit, an attachment to a cult, a bizarre family secret, and who is convinced in the "Dain Curse" that has supposedly slain her entire family. The Op sets out to discover the origins of the cult and cure Gabrielle of her drug use... "The Maltese Falcon" starts with a simple case, in which a young woman asks the private investigators Sam Spade and Miles Archer to trail her sister's lover. Except not only does she not have a sister, but she's wrapped up in a bizarre hunt for the priceless, elusive Maltese Falcon. Sam Spade must unravel a tangle of lies and murder to find out who killed Miles, and what is going on with the Falcon. "The Glass Key presents Ned Beaumont, a gambler-turned-murder-investigator who has to start investigating when a Senator's son is murdered. What he uncovers is more than murder, but deception, desperate political games, gangsters and money. "The Thin Man" brings us Nick and Nora Charles, wealthy and dysfunctional New Yorkers who seem like unlikely detectives. When a friend reintroduces Nick to the family of eccentric genius Richard Wynant, they find a confusing web spun around Wynant (the Thin Man). His ex-wife has married a bitter rival, and his kids aren't being forthright. Who is the Thin Man, and what has he done? Hammett's writing style is spare and to-the-point, but is shockingly vivid when it needs to be (such as the human sacrifice scene in "Dain Curse"). His leading men are hardened, cynical, and live by their own sense of justice, but surprisingly deep and human. The supporting characters are also good: sighing femme fatales, cultured obese gangsters, accursed damsels, charismatic cult leaders, frightened young girls, and corrupt politicians. There's a certain amount of narrative awkwardness in some of the books; "Curse" reads like three novellas, and "Harvest" is virtually impossible to understand at first. Some of the books may need to be read multiple times to really absorb the story, so that their complexity and twisting storylines can be fully appreciated. Only a handful of authors have managed to do what Dashiell Hammett did for the crime novel. His complete novels are a searing, twisting, deliciously noir read. Highly recommended.