BBC AUDIO CD REVIEW: The Maltese Falcon, BBC Audio Books, £9.25 from

When the woman employing you is absolutely incapable of telling the truth, you know you're in for the toughest of rides '“ especially when your partner is rapidly murdered.

Are the events connected? You bet they are as Sam Spade is sucked into the most baffling of investigations, bringing together the most baffling and threatening cast of characters.

The only thing uniting them is that they are all after the same thing - a statue of a falcon reputed to contain priceless jewels.

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You'll have to concentrate hard on this one. Maybe you'll have to rewind and review. But then that's no more than Sam Spade has to do in this hugely-enjoyable BBC dramatisation of the classic Dashiell Hammett private eye novel.

There are occasions when Tom Wilkinson is just a bit flat as Spade; you long for a bit more oomph and passion, but then again, that's perhaps the reason he's managed to stay alive while so many around him fall by the wayside.

It's a convoluted, murky tale '“ and Sam must keep his head above the water to survive. Jane Lapotaire, Peter Vaughn and Nickolas Grace each add their own magic in an excellent reworking which captures the spirit of the novel and pays its respects to the celebrated film.

Yes, it's complicated, but that just makes it all the more enjoyable on second listening. This is the BBC doing what the BBC used to best on TV and thankfully still does on radio '“ keeping the classics alive.

Phil Hewitt