Wildly inventive, elegantly perplexing and expertly told. Have fun trying to keep up with Owen Fitzstephen’s imagination.
– Steve Goble, author of the Spider John Mysteries
Like the craftiest of Dashiell Hammett’s grifters, Owen Fitzstephen plays the long con: baiting readers with a story we think we know before slipping us a Mickey Finn from which we awake unsure of where we are and what is real. The Big Man’s Daughter is stunning. Fan’s of Hammatt must not miss this multilayered, metaphysical adventure.
– Jennifer Kincheloe, author of the Anna Blanc Mysteries
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.
– Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
Dashiell Hammett’s The Dain Curse is only the first in a hall of playfully refracting mirrors that also reworks motifs from The Maltese Falcon and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
Left alone by the death of her racketeer father, Cletus Gaspereaux (Fitzstephen's version of Casper Gutman, repurposed here, like most of the cast, from The Maltese Falcon), and the demise or imprisonment of his unsavory associates, Rita Gaspereaux (Rhea Gutman) has to survive on her own. When her attempt to bury her father quietly in San Francisco backfires in a spectacular way, she’s left with no money and no consolation outside the pages of Dorothy G., Kansas, a novel that follows 18-year-old Dorothy Gale, Rita’s model and alter ego, around Paris, where her job as a waitress brings her up against private eye Paul Darnell. Desperate, Rita agrees to join forces with Evie LeFabre (Effie Perine), the secretary to Pinkerton operatives Sam Hammett (Sam Spade) and Mike Arnette (Miles Archer), who’s plotting to recover the real Maltese Falcon for which the Russian Count Keransky (General Kemidov) substituted the fake at the center of the action in Hammett’s novel and Fitzstephen’s earlier spinoff, Hammett Unwritten (2013). Although Rita plans to run off with the bankroll Evie’s raised to finance her search, Evie and professor Ted Bowman, her cousin and partner, aren’t nearly as naïve as they seem, and the triple partnership swiftly devolves into a battle of wits.
An ebullient mashup/revision/sequel perfect for knowing readers who don’t mind (spoiler) missing the Falcon yet again.
– Kirkus Reviews
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.
– The New Thrilling Detective Website