The Maltese Falcon

by Dashiell Hammett

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Discussion Topic

Summarize the key events and developments in multiple chapters of The Maltese Falcon

Summary:

The key events in The Maltese Falcon involve detective Sam Spade navigating a complex web of deceit. In multiple chapters, Spade encounters various characters like Brigid O'Shaughnessy, Joel Cairo, and Casper Gutman, each with their own hidden motives. The pursuit of the valuable falcon statuette drives the plot, leading to betrayals, confrontations, and ultimately, Spade's uncovering of the truth behind the elusive artifact.

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Summarize Chapters 1 and 2 of The Maltese Falcon.

In Chapter 1, the book opens with the arrival of a beautiful female who calls herself "Miss Wonderly" entering the Spade & Archer Detective Agency. She wishes to have somebody called Floyd Thursby tailed by the detective agency. Miles Archer, who is a partner of this detective agency, quickly agrees to help Miss Wonderly, apparently more attracted by Miss Wonderly herself than the job she asks him to do, as he smiles at her in a lascivious fashion. 

In Chapter 2, the action truly begins when Sam Spade, the hardboiled detective protagonist of this novel, is woken up in the middle of the night with a phone call to tell him that Miles Archer has been shot dead. When he goes to the place where it happened, he calls his secretary, Effie Perine, and gives her the instructions to tell Archer's widow, Iva, about her husband's death. When he finally gets back to his home, he is then accosted by two policemen, who ask him questions about the shooting of Archer and then also the shooting of Thursby, which happened after Archer was killed. 

This is of course just the start of an exciting and renowned detective novel where very little is as it appears to be, and where Miss Wonderly herself is shown to have a number of secrets, not least her name:

The hell of it, Miss--Is your name Wonderly or Leblanc?' She blushed and murmured: 'It's really O'Shaughnessy-- Brigid O'Shaughnessy.'

Note how the quote suggests the multiple identities of Miss Wonderly. The first two chapters however serve to introduce the main characters and the mystery that Sam Spade will then spend the rest of the novel uncovering, as his name suggests. 

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How would you summarize chapter 10 of The Maltese Falcon?

In Chapter 10 ofThe Maltese Falcon, Hammett characteristically has several different things happening. Spade searches Brigid O'Shaughnessy's apartment, leaving her asleep in his bed at his apartment. He find nothing but a week-old receipt for the month's apartment rent at the Coronet. (This will prove significant later.) He leaves evidence that her apartment was broken into overnight.

He returns to his apartment with groceries, using them to explain why he was gone. He tries to continue questioning Brigid about the mysterious black bird, but she refuses to answer any more questions. He takes her to the Coronet in a taxi and then goes to the Belvedere Hotel to check on Joel Cairo.

Cairo is not in, but Spade spots Wilmer Cook, Gutman's gun man, sitting in the lobby. Spade sits beside him and starts a cordial conversation, but the young man keeps insulting him. Spade tells Wilmer to tell his boss, whom he only knows as "G," that he will have to talk to him if he wants the falcon.

After another insult, Spade signals the hotel-detective and points Wilmer out as a "cheap gunman" with big automatic pistols in both overcoat pockets. Luke, the house-detective, tells Wilmer to get out and not come back.

Later in the morning, Joel Cairo finally returns. He says he has been up all night being grilled by the police, but that he adhered to the silly story Spade had told them in Chapter 8 about how they had staged a fake fight to play a joke on Lieutenant Dundy and Sergeant Polhaus.

Spade returns to his office and is informed by Effie Perrine, his secretary, that Ivy Archer has called three times. Sergeant Polhaus has also called. And "G" called and said he would call again.

Brigid shows up and says that she is terrified because her apartment was broken into. She is afraid to go back there. Spade arranges with Effie to put her up at her home for a few nights, and the two women leave immediately in a taxi.

Chapter 10 is a good example of how Hammett keeps all the characters constantly involved in the story, and how he creates the feelings of fast-paced action with Spade on top of everything.

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