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Dain Curse [Paperback]

Dashiell Hammett
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

14 Feb 1975
Miss Gabriel Dain Leggett is young and wealthy, with a penchant for morphine and religious cults. She also has an unfortunate effect on the people around her. They die - violently. Is she the victim of a family curse? The short, squat, utterly unsentimental Continental Op, the best private detective around, has his doubts and finds himself confronting something infinitely more dangerous. This is the Continental Op's most bizarre case.
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


Product details

  • Paperback: 188 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan; New edition edition (14 Feb 1975)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330242628
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330242622
  • Product Dimensions: 17.2 x 11 x 1.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 585,140 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Book Description

'Not just the first of the tough school of crime-writing but the best' The Times --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

B.1894, d.1961. After spells as newsboy, freight clerk, labourer, messenger, stevedore and advertising manager, Hammett became an operative of the Pinkerton Detective Agency. His experiences as a private detective laid the foundation for his writing career. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
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 CURSE is a case in point: tightly written in a merciless tone, Hammett's second novel clearly sets the stage for much that was to follow.
Hammett first made his reputation as a pulp magazine author, churning out a series of short stories in a lean, mean prose that drew numerous fans and built critical attention. One of the most popular characters of his short story work was known as "the Continental Op"--an insurance detective ("Op" being short for "operative") whose various adventures would ultimately form the basis for this, Hammett's second novel-length effort.
Although some will disagree, I personally consider THE DAIN CURSE an noticeable improvement over Hammett's first novel, RED HARVEST. Like most of Hammett's work, both works are noteable for their hard-hitting prose, both offer convoluted plots, and both provide us with archetypical characterizations--but where I find RED HARVEST a strangely flat and slightly up-hill read, THE DAIN CURSE hooks you with the first few pages and holds your attention with ease throughout the entire course of the novel.
The story is, as previously stated, convoluted. The Op is called in to investigate stolen diamonds--but strangely enough, these diamonds are not really precious: they are imperfect stones loaned by a jeweler to scientist/artist Leggett, who experiments with them in an effort to improve their quality.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A lesser work by Hammett 5 Sep 1998
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
The Dain Curse contains Dashiell Hammett's typically marvelous writing style, complete with his superb characterization, atmosphere, and narrative technique. However, the novel suffers in that the actual plot is rather weak, and the flow of events is choppy. The book appears, at first glance, to be three loosely connected short stories involving the same characters. Although events from each sequence lead into the next, the progression of action is uneven because of the multiple climaxes that occur throughout the book. Additionally, the apparently tenuous links between the three sections of the novel are not at all ideal for maintaining the reader's interest. Events do finally come together in the last chapter, and Hammett explains how these seemingly disparate events tie together. Nevertheless, until that point the reader might well be wondering just what is going on.
If you enjoyed Hammett's other works, you will probably like this one. Casual or first-time readers, however, might very well find The Dain Curse to be off-putting.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
"The Dain Curse" is a great read ; the dialogue is crisp and the story zings along at a great pace. The main problem with the book is the disjointed storyline ; the plot is subdivided into three sections, each with a self-contained storyline, linked up by the supposed curse around the leading female character, Gabrielle Leggett. The denoument of the book feels contrived ; I felt that Hammett had probably thought up the three separate plots and had (not completely successfully) attempted to link them together. However, this is a minor quibble ; the book is a great read and I would recommend it to all fans of detective fiction, although this may be a disappointment to those who have previously read "Red Harvest" or "The Maltese Falcon".
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Unattractive Heroine 11 Dec 2003
Format:Paperback
In the middle of THE DAIN CURSE the scene shifts to the temple of a San Francisco cult started by Joseph and Aaronia Haldron, a couple of mediocre actors. The cult is a revival of an old Gaelic church dating back to King Arthur's time. The end of the temple episode is probably where Hammett should conclude the story. Instead, he takes it eighty miles away from San Francisco where it begins to drag. Another limitation of this novel is that the heroine, Gabrielle, is not especially attractive. Hammett does not report this error in THE MALTESE FALCON.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  41 reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining but Unusually Vacuous for Hammett. 16 April 2004
By mirasreviews - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
"The Dain Curse" originally appeared as 4 serials in "Black Mask" magazine, 1928-1929, and was reworked and published as a novel shortly thereafter. The novel impresses me more strongly as a soap opera in three acts than a detective story. Yes, there is a detective, the always nameless Continental Op. And there is certainly a mystery. There are a lot of mysteries, in fact. But "The Dain Curse" is the most far-fetched of Dashiell Hammett's works that I've read, and the least cynical of his novels. I wouldn't call this book well-written, but it's a page-turner. The plot is so convoluted that the reader is even more anxious than usual to read to the end in order to find out what our detective will make of it. And that's the heart of the novel's problems: We keep reading because we are curious to know how the Op will unravel this messy, incomprehensible case. We don't keep reading because we are interested in the characters, the story, or the language. Those elements are far less intriguing than I have come to expect from Hammett. Perhaps it's because Hammett strayed from the world of gangsters and thugs that he knew best, but "The Dain Curse"'s conglomeration of religious cults, drug addiction, melodrama, and bourgeois murder just isn't credible on any level. The central female character in the book, Gabrielle, is more of a damsel in distress than a femme fatale, and she is rather unattractive, physically and intellectually. There's nothing wrong with these things, in themselves, but they typify "The Dain Curse"'s departure from Dashiell Hammett's traditional themes and style. Unfortunately, if this novel was an experiment, it wasn't a very successful one. But I don't deny that it's entertaining on a certain level. "The Dain Curse" is quite a jigsaw puzzle, even if it isn't a credible one. And it gives the reader an opportunity to see another side of the Continental Op, for better or worse. I don't recommend it to those not already familiar with Hammett's work, though, because it's distinctly atypical.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not Hammett's best, but still plenty good enough! 2 Dec 2001
By Paul Dana - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
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. Professedly amoral, "only a hired hand with a hired hand's interest in your troubles," this 'middle-aged fatman' demands that you take him at face value . . . and yet Hammett's genius is such that you're pulled to look beyond that self-description, to look under the "calluses on the calluses" on his soul.
The Op beat, bludgeoned and shot his way through countless short stories, several of which Hammett later "cannibalized" (to use Raymond Chandler's term for a process he himself would employ) into two novels, one of which is "The Dain Curse," originally serialized in Black Mask magazine before its book publication.
Melodramatic in tone, ranging from San Francisco's Pacific Heights to the semi-fictional town of Quesada (an interesting blend of Monterey and Half Moon Bay, in actuality), the novel follows the Continental Op as he solves several seemingly disparate mysteries before he realizes that those "solutions" are bogus and that he can only get to the true bottom of matters and achieve a genuine resolution by "lifting" the "curse" which 20-year old Gabrielle Leggett is convinced dooms her.
She has a drug habit. Through a mixture of cajolery and bullying, the Op sets out to cure her. And Hammett's true genius begins to show itself:
Throughout the first half of the novel, Gabrielle is, frankly, insipid and easily dismissed. Yet once the Op begins to focus on her as the key to everything else, she emerges as a sympathetic and compelling individual, and this has everything to do with the question of motive: Is the Op simply helping her as the means to an end (i.e., his refusal to be manipulated into a false resolution), is he motivated rather by a refusal to allow her to be victimized any further, or . . . are his feelings not quite so impersonal as he claims? Tantalizingly, his statements to her and his subsequent comments at the novel's end are contradictory and -- in the latter case, at least to this writer's sensibilities -- not altogether convincing. Which, I'm completely convinced, are exactly as Hammett intended. Each reader is called upon to reach his or her own conclusion.
Suffice to say, without spoiling anything here, that justice is ultimately done (and how!) and the Continental Op continues on in his -- supposedly -- cold-blooded way. A "sleuth" or "manhunter," to use his terms. A "thieftaker," to use the 18th century British expression.
And yet, ever so much more. Whether he chooses to admit it or not. Ever so much more.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Curse" strikes intermittently 15 Mar 2004
By E. A Solinas - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Dashiell Hammett brought the noir detective into the limelight with "Maltese Falcon," but it wasn't the first or only novel he wrote about hard-edged, hard-boiled detectives. Among his early works was the Continental Op in "The Dain Curse," a scattered but interesting three-tier mystery.
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). And the types of stories are uneven: one is a smart mystery, one is a thriller with a freako cult, and one is more a character study.
Gabrielle is hardly a compelling character at first; she's pretty helpless and dull. Hammett doesn't give her a lot of attention for the first and second stories. But she's given some good expansion in the final story, where her "dope" addiction is dealt with. At the same time, the seemingly amoral Op is given further depth. Though even he may not know it, the intense conversations in the last third show that he's a lot more than he seems.
"The Dain Curse" is a somewhat uneven mix of lurid mystery and practiced, intelligent suspense. Hardly Hammett's best, but worth checking out.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a real page turner 13 Jun 2004
By Toby - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
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 my attention more than the other two. It had action at every turn, and seemed not to dwell on one point, but investigate the different aspects of the case. This was a great novel, and was worth reading.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In Spite of Flaws, Hammett's Second Novel Is A Winner 6 Sep 2003
By Gary F. Taylor - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
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 CURSE is a case in point: tightly written in a merciless tone, Hammett's second novel clearly sets the stage for much that was to follow.
Hammett first made his reputation as a pulp magazine author, churning out a series of short stories in a lean, mean prose that drew numerous fans and built critical attention. One of the most popular characters of his short story work was known as "the Continental Op"--an insurance detective ("Op" being short for "operative") whose various adventures would ultimately form the basis for this, Hammett's second novel-length effort.
Although some will disagree, I personally consider THE DAIN CURSE an noticeable improvement over Hammett's first novel, RED HARVEST. Like most of Hammett's work, both works are noteable for their hard-hitting prose, both offer convoluted plots, and both provide us with archetypical characterizations--but where I find RED HARVEST a strangely flat and slightly up-hill read, THE DAIN CURSE hooks you with the first few pages and holds your attention with ease throughout the entire course of the novel.
The story is, as previously stated, convoluted. The Op is called in to investigate stolen diamonds--but strangely enough, these diamonds are not really precious: they are imperfect stones loaned by a jeweler to scientist/artist Leggett, who experiments with them in an effort to improve their quality. Leggett seems as surprised as everyone that any one would actually go to the trouble of stealing them--but suddenly the tone of the characters shift, and those who first welcomed the investigation seem to resist it while those who originally opposed it seem to encourage it. Clearly, there is something more going on than a simple burglary, and it short order it becomes clear that the "something" is murder.
While THE DAIN CURSE is an entertaining read, it does have its flaws--and they are flaws that Hammett would take some pains to correct in his future work. Given that the novel is largely based on various short stories Hammett had previously written, it is hardly surprising that the movement of the plot has an episodic feel; there are actually points in the book where you feel the story has ended long before you've run out of pages, only to have Hammett spin off the plot into an unexpected direction with a somewhat awkward joining of the elements involved. The characters also tend to be inconsistent, and while this actually forms part of the plotline, Hammett does not entirely succeed in carrying off the effect.
Perhaps the single most oft-leveled accusation against the novel is that its heroine proves a largely unsympathetic character who lacks either the power of THE MALTESE FALCON'S perfidious Bridgett or the snap and spark of THE THIN MAN'S Nora. For myself, I did not find this the major flaw that so many others do; what is an issue, however, is the very limited attention Hammett offers the character in the first third of the novel, where she reads as a minor supporting character--and rather than build the role in a way that places her front and center, Hammett simply shifts gears and suddenly puts her at the forefront. The result is an extremely awkward transition that undercuts one's suspension of disbelief.
But whatever its flaws, THE DAIN CURSE is a truly entertaining read, written in the developing Hammett style that would peak with THE MALTESE FALCON. It may in some respects be a "developmental" work, but it is no less the worse for that, easily outclassing the vast majority of Hammett imitators that sprang up as the author rose to fame. Recommended to fans of the classic hard-boiled fiction school.
--GFT (Amazon.com Reviewer)--
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