The Big Man’s Daughter
In its opening scene, Rita Gaspereaux makes funeral arrangements for her con artist father, whose illicit enterprise has come to a sudden and fatal end. Having been schooled in the finer points of scamming funeral directors, the young woman realizes a bit too late that this mortician was a victim of a prior scheme, and he is not about to let it happen again. It is a testament to her father’s example that she expertly weasels out of her predicament and gets what she wants.
Liberated from her father’s unseemly influence, 18-year-old Rita dreams of becoming a Hollywood movie star, but try as she might, she can’t seem to shake free of her father’s obsessive pursuit of a priceless black bird statuette. Sound familiar?
Fitzstephen gives us a clever sequel to Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, focusing on a minor character from the original, renaming and rewarding her with a story of her own. Broke, with only the pages of Dorothy G. (a novel reimagining the life of Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz) for consolation, Rita agrees to help a Pinkerton secretary and professor recover the statuette from a Russian count who may possibly be Rita’s biological father. In reality, Rita schemes to steal the secretary’s bankroll and pursue her dream, but in unreality is where the story ends. With a wink and a nod to noir crime and Dashiell Hammett’s legacy, this is sure to please fans of both.