Monday, December 15, 2008

Spade & Archer-Joe Gores

Spade & Archer
Joe Gores
Knopf, Feb 2009, $24.00
ISBN 9780307264640

In 1921 San Fransisco, Sam Spade quits the Continental Detective Agency to open up his own private investigative practice; partnering with Miles Archer who he knew married Sam’s girlfriend Iva Nolan, when Spade volunteered for war service while he was serving overseas during the Great War. They hire Effie Perine as their secretary.

Sam works on a missing person’s case as banking heir Henny Barber vanished, but the sleuth believes he took a ride on the San Anselmo passenger ship to the South Pacific. That case leads Sam into investigating stolen gold coins purloined on the San Anselmo. Though he hands the case to the cops on a gold platter the police blow the case allowing the mastermind to escape.

In 1925, insurance man Ray Kentzler surreptitiously hires Sam to determine the cause of death of banker Collin Eberhard as a homicide, a suicide or unfortunate accident. At the same time a friend of Effie, who still works for Spade & Archer, employs him to find her chest of Bergina.

In 1928 Mai-lin Choi seeks money stolen from her famous father who never recognized his offspring. Her efforts take Spade & Archer back to the 1921 stolen gold coins case and the mastermind of that heist.

This daring prequel to Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon is a great historical private investigative tale that grips the audience from the onset as Spade goes into partnership with Archer. The story line is fast-paced with the sleuthing top rate. The tale would work as a superb one sitting stand alone even without its obvious roots, but the most fun is following the early days of characters who are in the Maltese Falcon as fans will relish Joe Gores’ excellent homage to the classic.

Harriet Klausner