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Mystery Monday – The Hammersmith Maggot

 

The Hammersmith Maggot by William Mole

 

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

 

The sleuth in this outstanding literary mystery is Casson, rich wine-merchant and amateur detective. Motivated by an itch to explore the margins of crime, he closely observes his fellow dwellers of London in the middle 1950s. Onto Casson’s radar appears the Hammersmith Maggot. As a consummate blackmailer, the Maggot stalks his victims, armed with information that he’s wormed out of a bank. He then levels false allegations that are impossible to refute without gross damage to one’s reputation. Collecting his cash, he disappears and never taps the same victim twice.

Casson extracts a detail from a victim that is reluctant to be interviewed. The detail enables Casson to identify the Maggot, whom he puts under surveillance. Casson also enlists the official assistance in the form of the gruff Inspector Strutt.

Mystery writer Frank Gruber said that an outstanding mystery must have a theme and invention. The theme in this mystery is the sheer villainy of the blackmailer. Casson, Strutt, and the reader feel sorry for the vics and feel so disgusted at the Maggot’s motivation and actions that we want to pound the Maggot down through the ground all the way to hell. Mole’s invention is copious. Though we know the identity of the Maggot by the half-way point, Mole builds suspense as to how Casson is going to nail him.

William Mole Younger (1917 – 1961) was a long-serving  officer in the British anti-terrorism and counter-espionage agency. Educated at Christ College Oxford, he began his writing career with three volumes of poetry and a travel narrative Blue Moon in Portugal. He wrote three mysteries. Released in 1955. The Hammersmith Maggot was a best-seller, won the approval of Queen Elizabeth, and was listed as “a best mystery” in Barzun and Taylor’s “Classic Crime Novels 1908 – 1975.”

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