Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mystery Book Review: Spade & Archer by Joe Gores

Mysterious Reviews

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Spade & Archer by Joe Gores. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Spade & Archer by Joe Gores

by
Non-series

Knopf (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-307-26464-5 (0307264645)
ISBN-13: 978-0-307-26464-0 (9780307264640)
Publication Date: February 2009
List Price: $24.00

Review: Joe Gores takes on the risky project of penning a prequel to The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett's mystery introducing Sam Spade, with Spade & Archer, chronicling some of the early cases of the famous private eye.

In 1921 -- some seven years before the events that take place in The Maltese Falcon -- Sam Spade resigns his position as a Seattle-based investigator for the Continental Detective Agency. Moving south to San Francisco, he sets up an independent agency as "Sam Spade, Esq.", which is quickly shortened to just "Sam Spade" after his new receptionist, Effie Perine, says it seems "more elegant". He's open to about any case, but no domestic matters. His buddy Sid Wise, a lawyer, is a source for new clients, and Spade hits his stride when a missing persons case is referred to him. Posing as a shipyard inspector, he's drawn into a separate case involving a fortune in stolen gold. The two cases are solved nearly simultaneously, setting him up for bigger and better (those are relative terms) things.

Spade & Archer reads a lot like a continuous series of short stories, with recurring characters and interlocking storylines. Gores seems to have captured the essence of Sam Spade exceptionally well; the rapid, clipped dialog pitch perfect. Discussing an early case with Effie, he says,

"[The police and the detectives] are thinking big and complicated. I'm thinking small and simple." He touched a finger to the tip of her nose. "Simple is always best, sweetheart."

The overall tone to the book isn't quite as dark and noir-ish as one might expect, the chapter titles deftly adding a light, entertaining touch, but it is certainly written in the style of Hammett and quite enjoyable. Fans of The Maltese Falcon and its author can rest assured that all due respect was paid to the original, and will not be disappointed with Spade & Archer.

Special thanks to Random House for providing a trade paperback edition (Vintage Crime, March 2010, 978-0-307-27706-0) of Spade & Archer for this review.

Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved

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Synopsis (from the publisher): It’s 1921—seven years before Sam Spade will solve the famous case of the Maltese Falcon. He’s just set up his own agency in San Francisco and he gets off to a quick start, working cases (he doesn’t do domestic) and hiring a bright young secretary named Effie Perrine. When he’s hired by a prominent San Francisco banker to find his missing son, Spade gets the break he’s been looking for. He spends the next few years dealing with booze runners, waterfront thugs, banking swindlers, gold smugglers, and bumbling cops. He brings in Miles Archer as a partner to help bolster the agency, though it was Archer who stole his girl while he was fighting in World War I. All along, Spade will tangle with an enigmatic villain who holds a long-standing grudge against Spade. And, of course, he’ll fall in love—though it won’t turn out for the best. It never does with dames.

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