cover image The Big Man’s Daughter

The Big Man’s Daughter

Owen Fitzstephen. Seventh Street, $15.95 trade paper (184p) ISBN 978-1-64506-019-2

This arresting mystery from Fitzstephen (Hammett Unwritten) explores what might have happened to a minor character in Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon. In 1922 San Francisco, cunning 18-year-old Rita Gaspereaux is at loose ends after her con artist father, Cletus, “known to some in the rackets as the Big Man,” dies in a shootout over the possession of a statuette called the Black Falcon. Rita, who’s learned a few tricks from Cletus, believes she’s at last free to take control of her life, but barely a day passes before she’s drawn against her will into a quest to retrieve the fabled bird. Meanwhile, Rita takes solace in fiction, “almost as effective an escape as laudanum,” in particular a novel about an innocent 18-year-old from Kansas, Dorothy G. Extracts from the novel nicely complement Rita’s story. Lies, cons, shifting alliances, kidnapping, and death propel readers toward a strangely hypnotic climax, which is skillfully presaged yet still an exhilarating surprise. Fans of metafictional mysteries will be enthralled. (May)