The Maltese Falcon, widely regarded as the mother of all noir novels, has been immortalized by the classic Humphrey Bogart flick. If you have seen the movie but haven’t read the book, you are missing more than you can imagine.
The Maltese Falcon features Sam Spade, Dashiell Hammett’s self-serving San Francisco detective. When Sam’s partner is murdered, the cops put the blame on the detective. Things get super complicated when a gorgeous woman begs for Sam’s help, bad guys demand a payoff from Sam, and a mystery develops around a priceless gold statuette of a falcon.
The coolest thing about the book is Sam Spade himself. He talks, fights, and flirts with inimitable style. Hammett’s style is pretty much straight forward and without too much description. The focus is more on action; the story is high on murder, betrayal, and sex. The plot, as you may guess, is highly intelligent and intricate.
The Maltese Falcon is a solid proof of the fact that even pulp/crime fiction can be a classic. It stands the test of time and the plot makes as much sense today as it did in 1930. For most readers, The Maltese Falcon will be even more appealing than even Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep and Farewell, my Lovely.
The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain
Solomon’s Vineyard by Jonathan Latimer
This is the second thriller I read this week from a debut novelist. And just like Kill with a Borrowed Knife, it turned out to be an awesome ride. Let’s take a look at Bryce Allen’s The Spartak Trigger.
Shane Bishop is an amoral cop turned set-up artist. He has become an expert in framing people for criminal offenses in lieu of money. But Shane’s luck runs out as he is outsmarted by a government agent and the ex-cop gets framed for what turns out to be a high profile murder.
Shane’s only hope to get out of the situation rests with a piece of crucial evidence, but he is forced into high risk espionage jobs. He finds himself in mortal danger as he deals with a Russian extremist group and tries to retrieve a computer program that can wipe out the World Wide Web.
What is Spartak Trigger
The US developed an extensive network of communications system in response to Russia’s Sputnik. However, they had no idea that a Russian agent had set up a self-destruct code that can cripple the entire communications system including the Internet. Gentlemen, welcome to the secret of the Spartak Trigger.
What’s so good
The Spartak Trigger follows typical Russian-European thriller style, but it doesn’t feel cliché. For a debut novelist, Mr. Allen delivers a surprisingly decent dose of twist and turns. The plot does seem a bit implausible at times, but it keeps the readers well hooked till the end. Most importantly, the author exhibits fantastic story telling skills.
The characterization is done with a high degree of dexterity. Particularly Shane’s character is extremely well developed and believable.
Thriller fans won’t be disappointed.
About the author:
Bryce Allen was born in Atlantic Canada in the early-1980s. He graduated from the University of King’s College in 2004 with a BA in History and currently resides in the United States.
The Spartak Trigger by Bryce Allen on Amazon
Tired of 007? Michael Wreford brings you a brand new MI6 contract agent — George Quant — with sharp claws and deadly intelligence. Nope, you’ll be missing the cold war politics here for Wreford’s Kill with a Borrowed Knife: or Agent Ai is a thriller primarily set in China. Quant doesn’t fight authoritarian despots or space attacks backed by some insane crime genius. This top notch thriller focuses on cyber terrorism.
What’s the story
Quant, a journalist and a freelance MI6 agent, arrives in Beijing to find himself in a deceptive world of spies. He is a fugitive and doesn’t know who to trust. Quant is carrying a DVD labelled as “Citadel” — an antivirus programmed to fight against a unique virus that can attack major networks across the globe with extreme precision. He is the only man who can stop the attack, but odds are heavy and the web of conspiracy around him is intricate and strangulating. Quant is left with difficult choices in the face of extreme danger.
What’s so good
The trademark sign of a good thriller is its pace. Kill with a Borrowed Knife runs faster than a Japanese bullet train. Considering the non-linear plot structure, this is quite surprising. There are flashbacks that throw light on past events from Quant’s life, his relation with a Moscow-based handler called Karen, and developments in Phnom Penh and London. Nonetheless, the interest in the plot never drops.
The characters are remarkably well sketched and multi-layered. The dirty dealings, shady characters in the world of international espionage are delineated meticulously. The dialogues are cool and authentic with touches of Chinese, Russian and French phrases, which make things more credible and believable.
The best thing about Quant is that he is not an invincible superspy like James Bond. The guy is a normal human being vulnerable to attacks and bleeds like any of us.
This is a fun read and recommended for fans of the genre.
About the author
Michael Wreford is the pen name of two authors who collaborated on their debit novel. They are experts in Chinese and International relations and have lived in Beijing, The Hague, Hong Kong, New York, the United Kingdom and Switzerland.
Wreford’s Kill with a Borrowed Knife: or Agent Ai on Amazon
Along with Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain is widely recognized as a giant of hardboiled crime fiction. It’s actually a weird kind of recognition; Cain’s books are taught in universities, students submit projects on him, yet he is regarded as a cheap pulp fiction author, one who titillates and creates sensation through sin, scandal, and repulsive violence. Even Time magazine infamously described his works as “carnal and criminal”.
But you wouldn’t care if your books sold millions of copies and were translated into twenty languages. So Cain never bothered about his critics and right from his debut novel to his last, his books were shocking, disturbing, and dangerous (if print can ever be dangerous). Classic crime stories like Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice are perfect examples. Do you know Cain wrote about a seductress stealing her mother’s lover even before Nabokov came up with Lolita?
The brutal voice of Cain is back once more, 35 years after his death. Just before his demise in 1977, the writer completed his final novel — The Cocktail Waitress. It was not published during his lifetime and the manuscript was lost after his death. Charles Ardai, the editor of the book, came across rumors of a final book and after nine years of relentless searching his mission was successful. The Cocktail Waitress is out in the market now (Titan Books).
The subject matter of The Cocktail Waitress is salacious, but we expect nothing less from Mr. Cain. Told from first person perspective, it delineates the story of a young widow — Joan Medford. Her husband dies of an accident, police treats Joan as a possible suspect, and Joan takes up a job in a restaurant to sustain herself and her son. Our skimpily clad sensual heroine attracts a lot of attention in her workplace; cops, amorous affairs, and Joan’s secret past forms an intricate web that makes it difficult to decide if the girl in question is a scheming criminal. There are some surprises towards the end.
The Cocktail waitress is a standard James M. Cain book, which delivers what it promises. It is a collector’s item due to its historical significance, so you might want to taste Cain’s femme fatale. Continue reading
A memorable trip for readers of the crime/mystery genre. Not all mysteries are human though; there are horror elements as well. You should be mildly ecstatic about this book because you don’t get to read stories like this anymore. More importantly, The Omnibus of Crime comes from our favorite editor Dorothy L. Sayers — an authority on detective fiction. I’d happily sell my new ipad to attend a lecture on detective stories by Mrs. Sayers.
The most attractive part of this epic collection is the Introduction itself. Sayers correctly says that The Omnibus of Crime has a little bit of everything in it. The stories mainly range between 1800s and 1920s (there is one Scottish legend as well), and they give you a bird’s-eye view of the subject. And I agree with Sayers when she writes “Every tale in this book is guaranteed to have puzzled or horrified somebody; with any luck at all, some of them may puzzle and horrify you.” Unfortunately, the collection doesn’t have a story by Sayers, who was quite a writer herself.
The Omnibus of Crime is replete with fascinating old tales; you’ll find haunted stamp albums, a professor being hunted by the last of the Furies, voyage to Mars and lots more. If this doesn’t sound appealing, it’s probably not for you.
Contents: Continue reading