Watching the 1941 film adaptation of Dashiell Hammet’s The Maltese Falcon, I started to notice strange echoes between this hard-boiled classic and Dan Brown’s run-away best-seller (arguably the best-selling book of all time) The Da Vinci Code.
So, on a lark, I decided to make a bullet list of the comparisons.
- In both stories, the investigator is making the best of getting swept into a conspiracy much larger than his usual routine.
- Both stories focus on ancient Crusader intrigues and secrets.
- Which drags a thoroughly American investigator through European history.
- Both stories elevate disrespected fiction through sheer popularity.
- And in both cases, the traditionalists stubbornly resist this.
- Both stories begin with the death of someone the investigator knows.
- In both stories, the death was caused (directly or indirectly) by someone close to the investigator.
- In Falcon, Miles Archer was murdered by Brigid O’Shaughnessy, with whom Spade develops a romance.
- In Code, Jacques Saunière was murdered by a lackey of Langdon’s friend, Sir Leigh Teabing.
- Both stories feature a re-imagining of the feminine, in different directions.
- In Falcon, O’Shaughnessy’s traditional damsel-in-distress act gives way to her edgier femme fatale reality.
- In Code, Mary Magdalene’s traditional role as prostitute gives way to a softer vision of the Divine Female.
- Both stories feature a re-imagining of the masculine, in different directions.
- Falcon‘s gritty, physical Spade broke a long tradition of aristocratically intellectual parlor detectives.
- Code‘s brainy everyman Langdon came at the end of a long trend in action heroes so excessively physical that, with Schwarzenegger’s turncoat Terminator, they became literal machines.
- Falcon‘s climax (which is not the arrival of the Falcon) features an unraveling of a romance against narrative expectations, as Sam decides to turn Brigid in for murder even though he loves her. Reversing this, Code focuses on the union of masculine and feminine.
That’s probably not the last of them. If you can think of more, add them to the comments!