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A Book Review of The Dain Curse

Updated on July 22, 2012

I first became acquainted with Dashiell Hammett when I saw an adaption of his book to screen with the movie The Maltese Falcon. I wondered about the novels written by this man and if they all were as great as the movie version of the book had been. I decided to start with The Dain Curse.

Dashiell Hammett author of The Dain Curse was even more interesting than his characters were or perhaps his characters were an extension of himself and his previous profession as a Pinkerton agent. He had claimed that "All my characters were based on people I've known personally, or known about." In his lifetime he was a messenger boy, newsboy, clerk, timekeeper, yardman, machine operator, stevedore, soldier and writer.

The book The Dain Curse was written in 1929 , but the story still holds up today. The main character isn’t mentioned by name he is only known as the Continental Op working for an insurance agency. He is middle aged, pretty good build and can think quickly which helps him immensely in this case.

The Continental Op is called to the Leggett house over some missing diamonds. What begins as a theft soon reveals itself to be more complicated that it seems.


The Continental Op he is the detective working with the insurance company the reader feels out the characters through his eyes with his keen observations.

Mr. Edgar Leggett he is the character that reported missing diamonds. He has had a rough life and things will get rougher for him in the near future.

Mrs. Leggett appears to be the dutiful wife, but soon things will surface to show she is more complex than meets the eye. What is her part in Gabrielle’s young life and in the life of her husband?

There is a daughter named Gabrielle who is young, wealthy, and has a morphine problem. On top of that she has been going to a building known for cult activity. Trouble seems to find her at every turn; can she be saved from herself and the others she encounters?

Joseph Haldron is the leader of the cult and before that he was an actor. Joseph seems to have lost touch with reality and soon proves to be dangerous.

Aaronia Haldron is the wife of the cult leader and was once an actress. She was loyal to her husband, but now sees he isn’t quite right. She also has her eye on another fellow, but he has his eye on someone else.

Eric Collinson is the fiance of Gabrielle and he has his hands full trying to keep her out of danger.

Owen Fitzstephan – A writer and friend of the Continental Op. Later in the book he plays a larger role in the story and he has in interest in Gabrielle which complicates things for everyone.


The plot of the story is like taking a roller coaster ride. You go all over the place. It is an exciting ride from the mystery of stolen diamonds to murders popping up all over California. The plot can be a little too complicated in some parts. I found the need to go back and re-read some parts just to make sure I was up to speed with the story.

The thing I like about most detective novels is that when they finally break the case open they explain it all either to the client, a friend, or when they confront the culprit. I like that. Unlike the detective sometimes I don’t see the obvious and need things spelled out.

The Dain Curse has witty dialogue and some parts will make you smile. In the one part of the novel the detective goes into the cult where the actor Joseph has lost touch with reality. He thinks he has become God and is none too happy about the thought of his possible arrest. He tells the detective he must die. The detective disagrees and a battle ensues. The victor is the detective and he states:

“Thank God he really wasn’t God” after barely escaping with his life.

Gabrielle seems to be the center of all the drama in the book with people trying to save her, trying to kill her, or put her in jail. It may have been good that during the first part of the book she was in a haze of drug addiction anyone else would have cracked at all the things that seemingly made her appear cursed.

The detective seems to care for Gabrielle is he in love with her or is he just doing his job? The reader will have to decide for himself.

The Dain Curse is a suspenseful mystery that will keep you turning the pages to see how the case is going to be solved. Dashiell Hammett was a very talented writer that brought heart, and humor to the story. He also brought the most important thing to the mystery and that is suspense. The reader will finish the book feeling he got his money’s worth


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