Owen Fitzstephen‘s book is called The Big Man’s Daughter, and it doesn’t really have a detective in it, but…
Explaining one of his books is a bit like skiing about soup. This is really just the author playing fast and loose (and possibly avoiding lawsuits from the Dashiell Hammett estate) with The Maltese Falcon (again).
Like, really fast and really loose.
When the best laid scams of her father (a criminal known as “The Big Man,” not “The Fat Man”) to procure a priceless statuette of a bird called the Black Falcon (not the Maltese Falcon) that is said to possess mystical powers, go belly-up, eighteen year-old scam artist Rita Gaspereaux (whose name is not Rhea Gutman) finds herself abandoned and penniless in the merciless criminal underworld of 1922 San Francisco.
Sounds intriguing, even if it’s not exactly the stuff that P.I. dreams are made of.
But then McAlpine, that crafty son of a bitch, slips us a real literary Mickey Finn.
Rita’s only comfort (and possible salvation), it turns out, is a novel about another lost eighteen year-old that she’s become obsessed with. And as this multi-layered mash-up unfolds, Rita begins to discover some strange and disturbing parallels between herself and a certain Dorothy G. from Kansas, the plucky heroine of the book-within-a-book, and the lines between fictional worlds begin to, uh, magically blur.
Damn you, Fitzstephen! You’ve done it again!
It may not be a detective novel, or even a mystery, really, but it’s a heady brew all the same; a ballsy, carefully assembled and psychologically sharp read that tears into the guts of what it’s like to be young, scared and not sure where you’re going. Or where exactly you’ve been.
If you’re a Hammett fan, you’re going to love this.