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The Maltese Falcon

Written by: Dashiell Hammett
Narrated by: William Dufris
Length: 7 hrs and 5 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (14 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Hard-boiled detective Sam Spade is hired to locate a client's sister by tailing the sister's companion. Spade's partner Miles Archer takes on the assignment, and quickly both Archer and the man he was shadowing are murdered. As Spade pursues the mystery of his partner's death, he is drawn into a circle of colorful characters, and they are all after a legendary statuette of a falcon that had long ago been made for King Charles of Spain. Encrusted with jewels, it is worth a fortune. Missing for centuries, it resurfaced in 1921, when it was covered in black enamel to disguise its true value.

The Maltese Falcon is the definitive masterpiece of the hard-boiled detective genre. Humphrey Bogart immortalized tough-guy Sam Spade in the classic 1941 film.

©1956, 1957 Dashiell Hammett (P)2003 The Audio Partners Publishing Corp.

What the critics say

"Dashiell Hammett...is a master of the detective novel, yes, but also one hell of a writer." (The Boston Globe)
"The Maltese Falcon is not only probably the best detective story we have ever read, it is an exceedingly well written novel." (The Times Literary Supplement)
"Hammett's prose [is] clean and entirely unique. His characters [are] as sharply and economically defined as any in American fiction." (The New York Times)
"William Dufris is a one-man band, covering the entire cast of diverse characters with unbelievable ease....just short of amazing." (AudioFile)

What members say
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

great story! a must listen

well written fast paced action packed story, narrator does a variety of voices, most of which add to the experience. would recommend

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would recommend !

fantastic story, great narration and classic novel. the writing style of the critically acclaimed author was a little dry when it's gets too detailed in the explanation of the rooms or people. you can get lost in the descriptions and forget what's happening in the story at times.

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    5 out of 5 stars

Sublime

The Maltese Falcon is a classic detective story, probably the entry point for how to get interested in the genre. It's a tightly paced, well constructed story with engaging characters.

At its heart is its charismatic and yet morally ambiguous protagonist Sam Spade. Hammett writes Spade as a perfect foil to the various sinister characters he comes across. The Maltese Falcon is written from a third person perspective and we're never given a frame of the characters inner thoughts. This works very well as we're never completely given a picture of Spade's inner thought process or how he deduces his conclusions, we just see his actions. This creates a sense of suspense to the story that overshadows how it is ultimately a plot featuring a Macguffin that everyone is looking for. The Maltese Falcon was widely viewed as the prototypical Macguffin story and for good reason. It views the plot device as simply a mechanic to hang its hat on, and allow its characters to flourish.

The Maltese Falcon to me is Dashiell Hammett's opus and it's disappointing to me this was Sam Spade's only novel due to the quality of the book's worldbuilding and the various rogues the main character encounters. But at the same time it is quaint in a way. We live in a world where stories are never simply finished, we just see them continue on in sequels ad nauseum. But in the Maltese Falcon we're given a single snapshot, and we're left to ponder. It's little wonder the book heavily influenced later authors such as Raymond Chandler as a result.

This audio book is a solid rendition of the story, the narrator takes great effort at trying to sound like the various characters for better or for worse. The book has also been told through audio dramas. Whichever way you want to experience the Maltese Falcon, you'll find it to be one of the best in its genre.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Christopher
  • 2004-04-01

Play it again, Sam.

The audiobook of the Maltese Falcon exceeded my expectations. It was richer, and more detailed than the movie (in which Bogie played Sam Spade). The femme fatale is wonderfully portrayed, as is the treacherous Joel Cairo. This is the first time I have heard an American reader carry off multiple voices and characters. Usually the 'dipthong drift' which characterises Amer-English makes the voices too whiney and insubstantial when compared, for example, with Richard Burton or Derek Jacobi. But this book is the exception. The voice of Cairo (Peter Lorrie in the movie) is delightful, as if the actor himself, dead all these years, had come back.

Listening to the audiobook also made me realise how much 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit ?' owed to the book, rather than the movie. The mental images created are very strong in this novel, the characters so stereotypical or 'characaturised' as to be almost cartoonish, but in an entertaining way, and in a style which reflected the 1940's I suppose.

This might be the best audiobook I have heard so far. Strongly recommended, but you do have to pay attention !

32 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Jim
  • 2008-09-19

A little overacted

Good book and great story. The narrator was good and the audio quality was good. Only one problem - the narrator REALLY overacted the women's parts. In fact, he carried on so much, I fast forwarded through a couple of sections because it got so nerve-rattling.

14 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • S. Barrett
  • 2006-07-21

A Nice Rendition

Most people have seen the movie (often more than once) and many have read the book, so what's new and worthwhile about this audio book? The narrator, for one. William Dufris does a fine job with this book. He doesn't try to make Sam Spade sound like Humphrey Bogart--a wise choice. After all, the Sam Spade in the book (blond hair, somewhat satanic smiling features) isn't like Bogart's character at all. At the same time, he does an excellent imitation of the film versions of Cairo and Gutman. All in all, it was fun to listen to. The story stands on its own merits: classic hard-boiled detective fiction. If you're looking for good entertainment, this is is.

20 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Christopher
  • 2005-06-11

Gritty, Deceptive, Wonderful!

I had seen the movie (the 1941 remake, never the original) years ago but had vague recollections of the story. Being older now, I have a much higher respect for Mr. Hammett's writing style as well as a deeper understanding of the plot. The book was ever bit as good as the movie, if not better. I love the details and the way Sam Spade is portrayed -- stories nowadays are oftentimes too predictable with the good guys and bad guys clearly defined as if guised in white hats and black hats. Sam Spade is a gritty good guy who would probably wear a gray hat.

The reader is fantastic and enjoyable to hear. Other critics say he reflects too much the actors in the film but I didn't necessarily see that. Personally I think both the actors and Dufris merely captured the characters' personalities. He did an outstanding job that would make Mr. Hammett proud.

12 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Barry
  • 2012-08-07

Why can't all pulp fiction be this good?

Would Hammett be offended by that? I don't know. Was he trying to write Literature? I don't know. I do know this is a rollicking good yarn, and it doesn't hurt to have a slew of place names and landmarks from my favorite city thrown in. It's kind of amazing to think that this was published in 1930 just at the beginning of the Great Depression; and sad to think Hammett would abandon writing just a few years later. And if I think about how Hammett was treated in his later years, I'll get really bummed. But here he is at the height of his powers, writing with verve and elan, creating one of the most memorable detective novels of all time.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • amy
  • 2009-12-05

If you've seen the movie . . .

One of the other reviewers says "This is a wonderful adaptation from a great film." There's an excellent reason for that, even though the film was made eleven years after the novel was published: If you've seen the movie, it will play in your head as you listen. The actors and director must have read the book to the point of memorization. For example, all of Bogie's gestures and facial expressions are described almost cinematically in the novel. The same can be said of Lorre, Greenstreet and Astor. It is, of course, THE landmark in the genre. Every detective novel in the past eighty years has been influenced by this book. It is well worth a listen.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Marie-Elizabeth Finamore
  • 2009-11-17

mostly spectacular

the story and the reading were great... film noir, lots of suspense, early 20th century style. those who feel the characters, especially the women, were overacted are not familiar w/the genre... all women in detective stories of this era were somewhat melodramatic by today's standards. lighten up... it's fun!
my only complaint is why weren't the "end of Disc 1; beginning of Disc 2" notices edited out?

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Neil
  • 2011-05-07

Fantastic, the narrator stole the show

This is a fantastic story by Hamett. I think the narrator Dufris did a fantastic job bringing the characters to life. I had the image of this book in black and white in relation to the Bogart film. The narrator brings the characters to life with the Gutman role played in the film by Sydney Greenstreet and Cairo role played by Peter Loire. I felt the passion and lust for this historic bird that would do anything to acquire. I couldn't wait to hear Gutman speak in this book. The female parts were not done as well, well enough with the main female character though. It was short and very enjoyable, and it is done in San Francisco, where I live. If you like mystery and going to a play then you will enjoy this.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Herv J. Peairs
  • 2013-05-23

Good listen in spite of weak narration

Would you listen to The Maltese Falcon again? Why?

I would not listen to The Maltese Falcon again because it's a pretty simple story, and in this case, there's no reason to go back for the narration.

What did you like best about this story?

I enjoyed the physical descriptions of Sam Spade and his witty dialog with other characters.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

The narrator's voice characterizations were for the most part, Saturday morning cartoon-ish, and the lines just felt poorly acted. His Sam Spade wasn't too bad, which saved it, and non dialog was just fine.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I felt no need to listen to this book all in one sitting, but that's not my style anyway.

Any additional comments?

If you're a fan of detective fiction and noir, are on the lookout for light entertainment, and haven't seen the movie for so long you don't remember the plot, I would go ahead and give this a try. It's a good story. If you are picky and feel life is too short to spend on anything but the best, then give it a pass.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • George
  • 2012-10-05

Narrator was not very good

What did you like best about The Maltese Falcon? What did you like least?

The original story. The narrator was obnoxiously bad.

Did the plot keep you on the edge of your seat? How?

Of course, it was a classic.

How could the performance have been better?

Hire a new or different narrator

Do you think The Maltese Falcon needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

Moot question

Any additional comments?

Major disappointment

2 people found this helpful