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After no-nonsense private eye Sam Spade—the forebear to Raymond Chandler‘s iconic noir detective Philip Marlowe—is hired by the beautiful Miss Wonderly to track down a roughneck she claims ran off with her sister, Spade finds himself roped into the search for a priceless bird statuette. But not everything, or everyone, is as it seems. Rife with red herrings and told entirely in third person, Dashiell Hammett’s gritty 1930 tale of San Francisco’s criminal underground offers a captivating portrait of a protagonist who resides squarely in the gray areas of morality. Hammett, a former employee of the notorious anti-labor Pinkerton security agency, is widely credited with originating hard-boiled crime fiction as a literary form and revolutionizing the detective novel. In 1990, the Crime Writers Association ranked The Maltese Falcon as the 10th top crime novel of all time, and the Mystery Writers of America ranked it second on a similar 1995 list. The novel has been adapted for the stage and screen multiple times, with the 1941 Humphrey Bogart-led movie of the same name considered a film noir classic. —Megan McCluskey

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