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Literature / The Falcon's Malteser

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The Falcon's Malteser is a 1986 British children's detective/comedy novel by Anthony Horowitz which is the first story of the Diamond Brothers series. The title is a spoof on the movie The Maltese Falcon and references the texts through many plot allusions.

It's the first case for hopeless detective Tim Diamond (real name Herbert Simple), who shares an apartment in London with his younger brother Nick. A South American gangster named Johnny Naples arrives to drop off a package with no explanation of what's inside, paying Tim £200 as a thank you and leaving them with a set of directions. The boys open the parcel to find a packet of Maltesers chocolates and become suspicious, visiting the given location to find the gangster dead in his apartment. With no leads, no one to go to, and being framed for murder, the brothers encounter Tim's former boss, Police Chief Snape and his aggressive partner Boyle, a lounge singer named Lauren Bacardi, an underworld crime boss known only as 'The Fat Man', and two German hitmen named Gott and Himmel.

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Malteser was later adapted into a movie named Just Ask For Diamond in 1988 and is said to be made into a stage play sometime in the 2010s. Was later followed by Public Enemy Number Two in 1991.


Shows examples of:

  • The '80s: Although, it's kinda hard to tell that it is the '80s because they're aren't any '80s cliches. Then it really weirds you out in the next novel that came out in 1991 because nothing changes. (This is not helped by the fact that it seems some of the text was revised in 1995 to bring it up to date.)
  • Accidental Misnaming: Tim calling gangster Naples "Mr Nipples", "Mr Navels" and "Mr Venice".
  • Adults Are Useless: Nick manages to work out the villain's motives, whereas Tim picks up a smoking gun at a murder scene twice and is jailed.
  • Bait-and-Switch Gunshot: The climax at the graveyard.
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  • Better Manhandle the Murder Weapon: Tim picks up the gun at the scene of a murder twice. The first time was with Johnny Naples and Tim and Nick have this conversation after their arrest:
    Tim: You don't think the police think I had anything to do with what happened to the dwarf, do you?
    Nick: No. You went up to see him. There was a gunshot. You were found holding a smoking gun. The dwarf was dead. I'm sure the police won't think you're involved.
  • Clueless Detective: Tim.
  • Da Chief: Snape.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Mostly Nick, but some of the adults are this, usually towards Tim.
  • The Ditz: Tim. As a detective, he'd know not to pick up a pistol at the scene of a crime. TWICE!
  • Dramedy
  • Gratuitous German: Gangsters Gott and Himmel occasionally use German phrases and have private conversations in German.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Nick to Tim.
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  • Kid Has a Point: Boyle regrets to admit this when he finds out that Nick is smarter than his annoying older brother during their interrogation.
  • Last-Name Basis: Snape and Boyle.
  • London Gangster: Boyle, which is funny because he's a cop.
  • Meele A Trois: The struggle for the diamonds is pretty much a free-for-all. Among the crooks, the two main players are The Fat Man and Beatrice von Falkenberg. Gott and Himmel play a much more direct and openly sociopathic threat to Nick throughout the book but are eventually revealed to be working for Beatrice. However, there seemed to be dissent even among those ranks, as Beatrice takes out Gott (Himmel having just been killed by The Fat Man) in the climax. Due to the book being told entirely from Nick's perspective, and perhaps the fact that the criminals believe the Diamonds to be softer targets than, say, other master criminals, we don't get to see a lot of the crooks clashing with each other, with the notable exceptions of the climax, and the fact that Gott and Himmel take out The Fat Man's chauffeur when they run into him in the Diamonds' flat. Even among the characters that can most easily pass as the good guys, there's disharmony, with the police openly using the Diamonds as bait to draw out the criminals, and Nick in return keeping certain details of what they know from them, and imploring Tim to do the same. The story also ends with Lauren Bacardi, Nick's sidekick through most of the second half, having absconded with the diamonds by the time he gets to them, having withhold how much she knew about their location from him.
  • The Neidermeyer: Snape to Tim, because he (gladly) fired Tim from the police before Tim became a detective and was rather glad to lock him and his brother up the second time they were at the scene of a crime.
  • Parental Abandonment: Inverted. Nick explains that he was meant to emigrate with his parents to Australia against his wishes in the novel's character introduction, but he managed to escape the airport when they weren't looking. Now he lives with Tim and admits that he sometimes regrets his actions due to Tim's dimwittedness and lack of business clients.
  • Political Correctness Gone Mad: Nick points out that the phrase "dwarf" to describe people under 4'11 is offensive and describes Johnny Naples as "vertically-challenged".
  • Punny Name: Several.
    • Lauren Bacardi, based on Lauren Bacall, which links with the brothers visiting the Casablanca Club, a movie that her first husband Humphrey Bogart was in.
    • Gott and Himmel are German words for "God" and "heaven". Often used by Germans as a Big "OMG!" or an Oh, Crap! moment.
    • A charlady at the nightclub called Betty Charlady. Though this is actually the pseudonym of The Falcon's widow Beatrice Von Falkenberg.
  • Rabid Cop: Boyle.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Those Two Guys:
    • Snape and Boyle, the police chief and his aggressive assistant.
    • Gott and Himmel, the two gangsters that kidnap Nick.
    • The brothers, in a way.

The film adaptation shows examples of:

  • Adaptation Distillation: In what is otherwise a remarkably faithful adaptation of the original novel (Horowitz wrote the screenplay himself), Nick's escape from Gott and Himmell's flat is simplified, and his second visit to the Hotel Splendide is omitted entirely.
  • Artistic License – Physics: Attempting to scan the Maltesers in Mr Patel's shop inexplicably causes his till to explode.

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