I actually had never heard of this "novel" until I saw it at the library while contemplating whether or not to grab "The Big Knockover". A tiny little book with the words "A Novel" on the cover. I am pretty sure there is no way this qualifies as a novel. It is about 76 pages which makes it something in the neighborhood of 25,000 words.
This...story was first published in installments in a pulp magazine in 1933. The next novel Hammett published was "The Thin Man" and he never published another novel after that, to the detriment of us all.
This is a bit of a thin story. There's not much going on and certainly not the twisty plots Hammett is known for. The dialog sparkles, as always, with lots of 30's slang and humorous bon mots. The protagonist, "Brazil" (not the country) is a nice character but a familiar one. The people with money are corrupt and corrupting, the cops are as callous as ever and the system is stacked against our hero Brazil, as usual. The book ends on a more hopeful note than I would have expected, but is a touch ambiguous I suppose.
I am a Hammett fanboy so I suppose I am rating this book higher than I would have if I had not thought I had already read all the Hammett there was to read. This isn't his greatest by any stretch but it is Hammett and it is pretty good. This one is for completists. I would point those curious about the great Dashiell Hammett to "Red Harvest", which has always been my favorite. 4/5