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on Sep. 15, 2012 :
Readers who are intimate with The Maltese Falcon (movie or book) may recognize the heroine of the title of this book. Effie Perine is Sam Spade’s secretary and has a minor but significant role in the case of the elusive black bird.
Buzzy Jackson interweaves elements from the classic story with a contemporary tale of a young woman’s search for identity. Her Effie is a 21-year-old who has fled the Mendocino commune in which she grew up to live in her traditionalist grandfather’s house in San Francisco. Chance finds her a job as a secretary to a pair of private eyes, Sam Spade and Miles Archer. It’s fortunate that Effie is into vintage clothing and rather innocent when it comes to popular culture, because Spade and Archer’s office is as retro as can be – big black rotary-dial phones, no computers and no coffee maker. Even the typewriter is a manual one, which is okay with Effie because she learned to type on one like it.
Effie is strangely content with her job and even more so in the company of Sam, even though their relationship remains almost (but not quite) platonic. A short time later a curvaceous client who calls herself Miss Wonderly appears and Miles Archer is murdered. Sam is in and out of the office, leaving Effie to deal with Archer’s widow Iva, various cops and the delightful Miss Wonderly, who changes her name as often as other women change their underwear, finally settling on Brigid O’Shaughnessy.
Outside of the office, Effie has to juggle her eccentric mother, a former-but-wanting-to-be-present boyfriend, the illness of her grandfather and tantalizing traces of her father, who vanished just about the time she was born. After a dizzying sequence of encounters and conversations, Effie makes an informed choice as to which world she wants to live in.
This is a weird but interesting novel. Effie is an engaging character, and the odd combination of the 1920s, 1970s and 1990s somehow manages to work. The author is good at creating ambiance and the dialogue made me feel that I was eavesdropping on real people. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed The Maltese Falcon or was part of the 1970s scene in California. And to anyone else who likes a good read with a dash of romance.
A minor problem is occasional lack of clear separation between different people's statements in sequences of dialogue -- most likely a formatting issue.
I acquired this book for free during Read An Ebook Week 2012.
(reviewed long after purchase)