The Dain Curse Paperback – Jul 17 1989
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Everything about the Leggett diamond heist indicated to the Continental Op that it was an inside job. From the stray diamond found in the yard to the eyewitness accounts of a "strange man" casing the house, everything was just too pat. Gabrielle Dain-Leggett has enough secrets to fill a closet, and when she disappears shortly after the robbery, she becomes the Op's prime suspect. But her father, Edgar Leggett, keeps some strange company himself and has a dark side the moon would envy. Before he can solve the riddle of the diamond theft, the Continental Op must first solve the mystery of this strange family.
About the Author
Dashiell Samuel Hammett was born in St. Mary’s County. He grew up in Philadelphia and Baltimore. Hammett left school at the age of fourteen and held several kinds of jobs thereafter—messenger boy, newsboy, clerk, operator, and stevedore, finally becoming an operative for Pinkerton’s Detective Agency. Sleuthing suited young Hammett, but World War I intervened, interrupting his work and injuring his health. When Sergeant Hammett was discharged from the last of several hospitals, he resumed detective work. He soon turned to writing, and in the late 1920s Hammett became the unquestioned master of detective-story fiction in America. In The Maltese Falcon (1930) he first introduced his famous private eye, Sam Spade. The Thin Man (1932) offered another immortal sleuth, Nick Charles. Red Harvest (1929), The Dain Curse (1929), and The Glass Key (1931) are among his most successful novels. During World War II, Hammett again served as sergeant in the Army, this time for more than two years, most of which he spent in the Aleutians. Hammett’s later life was marked in part by ill health, alcoholism, a period of imprisonment related to his alleged membership in the Communist Party, and by his long-time companion, the author Lillian Hellman, with whom he had a very volatile relationship. His attempt at autobiographical fiction survives in the story “Tulip,” which is contained in the posthumous collection The Big Knockover (1966, edited by Lillian Hellman). Another volume of his stories, The Continental Op (1974, edited by Stephen Marcus), introduced the final Hammett character: the “Op,” a nameless detective (or “operative”) who displays little of his personality, making him a classic tough guy in the hard-boiled mold—a bit like Hammett himself.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
I was introduced to the Continental Op a few years ago in short story form and loved the character quite a bit. I've been saving the novels for a few years and it was worth the wait. Hammett became famous for Sam Spade and the Thin man, but the Continental Op is deserving of more attention. He's not typically handsome and he's even short and fat, but he has enough brains an no how to get the job done.
A shame that Hammett got sucked into revolutionary politics and spent the last 30 years of his life writing nothing of value, because his early stuff is nothing less than Great American Literature.
For most novels, this would be enough material to fill one book, but for Dashiell Hammett, this is only the first of three parts that become steadily darker and seedier as the story progresses. The key figure in the book is Gabrielle Leggett, the confused, aloof daughter plagued by her own demons. Just when the Continental Op thinks he’s done with the family, he’s asked to watch over Gabrielle who’s recovering from tragedy at a Temple, which appears to be a religious cult. From there, things only get worse.
What can I say about Dashiell Hammett that hasn’t already been said? Having read his work after so many years, I understand why he’s considered one of the masters of the detective novel. It was a welcome change to read mystery that’s kicking it old style. There’s no hi-tech gimmicks in this story, just a lot of leg work and—on the downside--some sexism and racist slurs that were prevalent back then. Still, this whodunit will keep you guessing as hidden agendas and connections make a simple plot increasingly complex. Having said that, the twisted motivations and secret relationships in this book became so extensive that it stretched credibility by the end, however this won’t deter us true Hammett fans from reading more of his work.
Diamonds have been stolen, and the Continental Op has been called in to find out what has happened. But he finds that the whole story that is given to him has a "wrong" feeling to it -- mysterious men, a diamond he finds on the ground. When the Op digs further, he finds a web of murder, jealousy and hate that spreads back over young Gabrielle Leggett's life.
After the trauma of her father's murder, the Op takes Gabrielle to the Temple of the Holy Grail, a San Francisco cult. At first it seems like a slightly goofy but harmless little pseudo-religion -- until a hideous specter in the Op's room, and a murder that seems to have been committed by Gabrielle, shows that something sinister is lurking there. And finally, the "Dain curse" seemingly strikes again when Gabrielle's young husband is found dead...
Before anyone knew about Sam Spade, Hammett was churning out pulp fiction about the Continental Op in his trademark spare, sharp prose. "The Dain Curse" feels like three loosely connected short stories -- only Gabrielle Leggett ties them together, and the idea of the "Dain curse" (which is never fully dealt with -- though it makes an enticing title) which supposedly kills everyone around Gabrielle.
Hammett's writing is as dry and spare as always. However, the stories sometimes seem too short, especially the second one, which ends on a hurried note (we're only told of Gabrielle's marriage as a sort of postscript).Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Unlike most people, I feel that THE DAIN CURSE was one of the best novels that Hammett has written. After reading THE MALTISE FALCON, and THE THIN MAN, this novel seemed to keep... Read morePublished on June 13 2004 by Toby
This is a poorly constructed novel that only a masochist would bother finishing. The excessive plot twists are propped up by awkward explanation opportunities that inhibit what... Read morePublished on Sept. 17 2003 by ReviewMan
Today, of course, Dashiell Hammett's reputation rests largely on the legendary novel THE MALTESE FALCON, but this does not mean that his other work isn't worth a look, and THE DAIN... Read morePublished on Sept. 6 2003 by Gary F. Taylor
All of Hammett's other novels (The Glass Key, Red Harvest, The Thin Man, The Maltese Falcon) are five-star reads; his short stories (collected in The Big Knockover and The... Read morePublished on Jan. 5 2003 by saara
The Dain Curse recounts a mystery seen through the eyes of The Continental Op, a stocky, perceptive and industrious middle aged sleuth employed by an insurance firm. Read morePublished on Nov. 3 2002 by Cory D. Slipman
A little below standard for Dashell Hammett and for his Continental Op stories, the climactic last third represents some of the author's best writing. Read morePublished on July 22 2002 by Neal Reynolds
In the middle of THE DAIN CURSE the scene shifts to the temple of a San Francisco cult started by Joseph and Aaronia Haldorn, a couple of mediocre actors. Read morePublished on July 11 2002 by Peter Kenney
Of all the protagonists Dashiell Hammett created -- Sam Spade, Nick and Nora Charles, Ned Beaumont -- the Continental Op, for my taste, is the most enduring and compelling. Read morePublished on Dec 1 2001 by Paul Dana