The Maltese Falcon | Study Guide

Dashiell Hammett

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The Maltese Falcon | Chapter 12 : Merry-Go-Round | Summary



Spade goes to Sid Wise's office after Iva has been to see him. Sid reveals Iva followed Miles the night he was killed. She saw him trailing a man and a woman. Realizing he was working, she left and went to Spade's apartment, but he wasn't there. She then decided to go to a late movie and dinner before going home. Miles was still out so she went back to Spade's place, but he still wasn't in. He had gone to see Miles's body. Iva returned home shortly before Effie arrived with the news about Miles. Spade tells Sid he doesn't "believe it or disbelieve it" because he knows nothing about any of this account.

Spade returns to his office, and Effie tells him Brigid never showed up at her house. Spade finds the taxi driver who was supposed to take Brigid to Effie's. He asks him where he took Brigid instead, and the driver fills Spade in. First they stopped to buy a copy of the newspaper, the Call. Then he dropped Brigid at the Ferry Building. Spade gets a copy of the same paper and reads it but doesn't see anything unusual. He notices Gutman's boy in the doorway of his office building, who tells him Gutman wants to see Spade. Spade grabs the boy by the wrists, crushing his hands until his arms go limp. Spade pulls two guns out of the boy's pockets. The boy had been holding one in each hand.


The first part of this chapter contains a dialogue between Spade and the lawyer, Sid Wise, and is an excellent example of Hammett's writing style. He uses short, terse sentences, and the information is all very much to the point. This naturalistic style is apparent in the realistic, stripped-down way they speak to each other. It is not without humor and makes them sound pleasingly rough-and-tumble as they joke with each other: "'Just one more client like you,' [Sid] complained, 'and I'd be in a sanitarium—or San Quentin.'" Spade retorts, "You'd be with most of your clients."

Spade asks, "What did she tell you?" Sid replies, "About you?" Spade then says, "About anything I ought to know." Sid then reveals Iva saw Miles when he was following Thursby and Brigid, right before he was killed. It also confirms Effie's suspicion that she shared with Spade that Iva had just returned home when she arrived to tell her Miles was dead. This, in turn, confirms Spade's feelings about women in general. "Jesus, these women!" he exclaims, laughing indulgently at their outrageous schemes.

Effie's news about Brigid, however, throws more doubt on Brigid's credibility. She is clearly not being honest with Spade. Why didn't she go to Effie's place, and what did she see in the newspaper? Spade also has good reason to be suspicious of Gutman and the boy who was waiting for him with a gun in each hand. This confrontation shows how impulsive and violent Spade can be, and Hammett doesn't spare the grisly details ("Spade ... crushed the boy's hands"). But this kind of an encounter is also the sure sign of the hard-boiled detective, for whom violence acts as a proof of his manhood, notably against those whose manhood is being questioned.

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