Not only my first novel by Dashiel Hammet but probably the first straight crime novel I've ever read too. I may have seen the film many years ago but couldn't really remember anything about it if I had.
Sam Spade is drawn into a mystery when he's hired by a client but is invariably kept in the dark by all the principle characters involved who all suspect that he knows more than he does. Spade needs to get wise, work out what's going on and who he can trust, if anyone.
I got the feeling, when reading this, that the story was kind of analogous to a poker game. Same Spade got dealed a bum hand and all the other players had better hands but through expertly playing one player off against another, bluffing and astute reading of the other players, gradually manages to win the game, although at a cost.
There's great characters and dialogue which made this book a pleasure to read. A classic period piece that may well lead me to read more books of this ilk in the future.