The Falcon's Malteser


The Falcon's Malteser

"The Falcon's Malteser" is one of "the Diamond Brothers" series of books by Anthony Horowitz. Set in London, the book tells the story of Nick Simple (who uses Diamond as his last name), teenage brother of hopeless detective Herbert "Tim Diamond" Simple, who is hired by a midget to protect a box of Malteser chocolates. When their client is found dead, and Nick's brother Tim is charged with the murder, Nick has to solve the crime to clear his brother's name. The title of the book is a spoof on The Maltese Falcon. The book that follows it is Public Enemy Number Two.

Family background

Early on the book, Nick (who narrates the story) explains that, before he went to live with his older brother Herbert, he'd lived with his parents in a part of London called Wiernotta Mews (word play on Queen Victoria's famous phrase "We're not amused"). At the time, his parents planned to fly (with Nick) to Australia. Herbert had joined the police (one week before the local training station was destroyed in a fire, largely implied to be Herbert's fault), and could look after himself, more or less.

Nick, not wanting to go to Australia, managed to flee Heathrow at the last minute, leaving his parents to fly off to Sydney on their own. In the later stories he sometimes wishes he is still with his parents but he went to live with Herbert - who had been sacked, having shot the weapons training instructor in a freak accident and had caused various other mishaps during his two months at Ladbroke Grove.

The first chapter introduces Nicholas 'Nick' Simple and his older brother, Herbert, who goes by the pseudonym 'Tim Diamond'. They live in a flat above a supermarket somewhere in London, and are down on the luck, with hopeless Herbert not being able to get a suitable job.

The first chapter also introduces Johnny Naples - a vertically-challenged South American who comes to the office carrying a suspicious package, and acting as if he's being trailed. He tries to explain the situation, whilst Herbert tries (and miserably fails) to put on a hardman act. When Naples offers them £200 sterling just to look after the package, with another £100 in it if the package is safe on the day he returns, Herbert accepts - but from the very start, Nick isn't so sure.

The next day - after going to the cinema to see 101 Dalmatians - they find their flat turned over by someone during the day. After a sleepless night, they check the mail to find a note left by 'The Fat Man' (likely a take-off on Dashiell Hammett's character Gutman from The Maltese Falcon, renamed "The Fat Man" in the 1941 adaption of the film starring Humphrey Bogart. The Fat Man, Herbert says, is the biggest criminal in England, involved in almost any crime there is - armed robbery, arson, theft and armed burglary are some of the things Herbert lists. The note demands that the Diamonds meet in Trafalgar Square at one o'clock sharpish.

It turns out that the pseudonym "Fat man" is rather ironic - when the man himself is finally revealed, he's one of the thinnest men Nick's ever seen, with the rings on his fingers slipping off almost constantly. Almost pleasant conversation elapses into threats when Nick tells the Fat Man that they don't have the box. The Fat Man then gives Nick and Herbert two days to find the box. When they return home, they discover that what's in the package is nothing more than a box of Maltesers - a very popular type of sweet in Britain, with a crunchy centre coated in milk chocolate.

Dumbfounded as to why Johnny Naples would pay them handsomely to look after a box of chocolates, they visit the (fictional) Hotel Splendide after a quick enquiry at a shop, with the keeper saying that the owner of a hotel in Portobello Road mentioned to him that a dwarf was staying at his hotel. When they go to Room 39 at Hotel Splendide however, they arrive at exactly the time that he's shot. Nick rushes into the room just in time to see someone jumping out of the window to safety. (The back wall of the hotel is barely six feet from a flyover - this would give whoever shot Johnny Naples the perfect escape route). Naples opens his mouth and is able to say "The sun...", and then "the falcon...", before he dies.

A plain-clothes police man, disguised as a drunk in street, arrests them and they're shopped to Ladbroke Grove Police Station, where Herbert's old boss, Chief Inspector Snape, flanked by his violent assistant Boyle, arrives to question them. Snape - who couldn't stand Herbert during his service there - apparently forms a grudging respect for Nick when he realises how smart he is for his age. When Nick offers Snape to tell him everything the Diamonds know in exchange for what the police know, Snape begins to tell his story.

The Falcon that Naples mentioned with his dying breath is the alias of the late Henry von Falkenberg, an English-German international criminal who had been living in La Paz, Bolivia, when the police last heard of him. Snape describes him as a great criminal, being involved in all sorts of crimes all over the world (Snape's various locations include Russia, Canada, Holland and England). The Falcon would only deal in one currency - uncut diamonds. Snape and the police suspect that the Falcon had stashes of uncut diamonds in many cities around the world, including London, which was the base of his operations.

When the brothers inquire into how Johnny Naples fits into all of this, Snape tells them that he was a quack doctor living in La Paz, Bolivia, with a run-down practice in the city's backstreets. However, with The Falcon, his luck changed. A few days prior to the book, as he crossed the road to catch a plane to London from El Alto Airport, the Falcon was mown over by a bus, and Johnny Naples was the doctor who rode back to the hospital with him, in the back of an ambulance. Although the Falcon dies on his way to hospital, he passes on a secret to Naples about a large stash of diamonds in London, with an estimated value of £5,000,000.

With this knowledge, Naples quit his job in Bolivia soon after the Falcon's death, and caught a flight to England. The police picked him up in passport control at Heathrow, before losing him for a short while, until they found him at the Hotel Splendide in Portobello Road. The police were watching Naples, because of various criminals that, they suspected, would also be interested in the diamonds, and would be tailing him so they could inquire about the diamonds. Snape then begins to write up, on a blackboard, the number of people who might've had an interest in the diamonds:

*The Fat Man: The number one criminal in England, the Fat Man had often done deals with the Falcon, according to Snape, and he probably knew where Naples was staying before the police did. Also, if the Fat Man had £350,000,000 he could probably become an international himself. Contrary to his name, The Fat Man was dieting and is unusually thin.

*Beatrice von Falkenberg: The Falcon's Dutch wife, Beatrice von Falkenberg was once the greatest actress in the Netherlands. The Falcon fell in love with her when he saw her in "Othello" in the title role. But he never apparently told her where the diamonds were hidden. Therefore, she would probably want to know.

*William Gott and Eric Himmell: Gott and Himmell were German, but they were educated at Eton. It is largely implied that they murdered the P.E. instructor, the local vicar and the deputy headmaster, who was found hung with his own school tie. They were the Falcon's two lieutenants.

*The Professor Quentin Quisling: Professor Quentin Quisling (his name isn't mentioned until the chapter "The Professor") was once the Falcon's technological whiz-kid, inventing various things for the Falcon. However, a year previous to the book, he goes missing. According to Snape, he could be dead.

Snape then tells Herbert he's a suspect, mainly because they were found with Naples dying, in his hotel room, just moments after a gunshot rang out - and Herbert was holding the gun that had killed the dwarf. The Chief Inspector then demands why Naples came to the Simples in the first place. Nick tells him that he'd been looking for protection of some sort. In the end, Snape lets them go, but with a caution. They head over to a fast food restaurant, where they chew the case over. After finding a matchbox from a nightclub called The Casablanca Club (a nod toward another one of Humphrey Bogart's movies), they decide to pay the club a visit.

Quickly, they find that Naples must have been a regular there - a waiter mistakes Nick for him, and offers him a bottle of free champagne, and a singer called Lauren Bacardi asks of Johnny's well-being. However, just moments after the brothers feel they're getting somewhere, Bacardi is snatched by two shady figures in a blue van. Nick manages to step onto the back of the van, but as the van hits 60m/h (96km/h), he's thrown off and into a wall of cardboard boxes.

After getting a taxi during the night, Herbert discovers the next day that the Falcon's funeral is being held at Brompton cemetery, nearby. Most of the suspects that appeared on Snape's chalkboard had arrived to 'grieve' for the Falcon. Nick spots the Falcon's wife, who pretends to mourn for her loss. Nick is intrigued by her fake mourning and visits her. The Falcon's widow, Beatrice von Falkenberg, claims that she deserves the diamonds (she is really poor and has had to sell all her property except her mansion) and threatens Nick with an alligator in order to make him promise to give her the Maltesers. Nick goes back to the hotel where Naples was staying in order to investigate while Snape keeps Herbert for interrogation, and in the midst of finding some scientific words scrawled in rough English on some scraps of paper, a grenade is hurled into the room and the hotel is destroyed. Nick escapes, narrowly avoiding an assassination attempt by the hotel's owner, and discovers from him that it was the Fat Man who threw the grenade into the room. Nick leaves the hotel owner hanging over the flyover and leaves the hotel.

Back in the flat the following day, Nick is visited by the Professor, one of Snape's suspects, who offers Nick the Falcon's money if he gives him the Maltesers. Nick gives him the fake packet he had bought after the Falcon's funeral and follows the Professor halfway down the road, but then is intercepted and kidnapped by William Gott and Eric Himmell, the most dangerous criminals in pursuit of the Maltesers. They threaten Nick with death over some tea and ask him for the Maltesers. Nick sends them to Victoria Station where he has said he's left the Maltesers, but in reality he's just buying time, for Gott and Himmell have also kidnapped Lauren Bacardi, Naples' girlfriend. Nick and Lauren almost escape Gott and Himmell's apartment but just as they've got out of the room they were locked up in the assassins return. Nick pushes a Beethoven piano out the upper-story window with Lauren's help onto the assassins' van, injuring them. Nick and Lauren then return to Lauren's apartment where Lauren reveals more about her life with Naples and how he saw the truth in a supermarket in the city. They both go to the supermarket but meet Gott and Himmell, and they try to elude them and Nick ends up in Santa's Grotto, but Himmell shoots Santa and Nick escapes. Nick and Lauren return to the apartment and Nick just realizes he's discovered the truth - the barcode on the Maltesers opens up the Falcon's bank account. Nick arranges a meeting in Brompton Cemetery with the Fat Man, Gott and Himmell. Gott and Himmell arrive, bringing Herbert, whom they've kidnapped. Nick tells them the truth and the Fat Man and Himmell shoot each other. Himmell tries to shoot the Simples, but then is shot by the Falcon's widow, Beatrice, whom, it turns out, was the Simples' housekeeper all along. She tries to shoot Nick and Herbert but in doing so the police arrive and arrest her. Nick, Herbert and Snape open the Falcon's bank account in his grave, and inside they find - nothing.

It has turned out Lauren has stolen the diamonds because she worked out the truth. But in one last gift she sends Nick and Herbert a Malteser - a Malteser with a diamond inside. Nick realises it must be expensive and decides to do something useful with his Christmas holiday, like going skiing.


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