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Mystery Monday – Too Much of Water


Too Much of Water by Bruce Hamilton


Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)


This 1958 mystery is set on a small steamer going from Liverpool to Barbados, carrying mainly cargo and a number of passengers. The unusual setting would be easy to visualize for readers who’ve been on a cruise. Ditto for people like me who have travelled on ferries or smaller ships for short runs. It might be hard to envision for readers who have no experience travelling on the ocean.

The main character is orchestra conductor Edgar Carrington. In his mid-fifties, he is intelligent and avuncular, but not sickeningly so. The characters – that is, suspects — vary from a classics master, a Barbados planter, a chemist, an architect, a drunken major, a counter-tenor, a YMCA organizer and a socialite. Hamilton effortlessly helps the reader visualize the characters in terms of appearance and personality. For instance, to introduce a character at table: “He dived instantly into the menu, rather in the manner of a hen investigating her feathers, so that almost all immediately visible of him was a satisfying bald head.”

The mystery plot, clues and solutions all play fair. Aside from the clear and pleasant prose, Hamilton appeals to thinking readers with asides about serious music, bridge, and the culture of Barbados such as the hospitality of the planters and the mania for cricket. The writing and the story never bog down and the reveal is satisfying. All in all, a good read.

Bruce Hamilton (1900 – 1974) was the brother of the better-known novelist, Patrick Hamilton, who wrote a play called Rope that Alfred Hitchcock made into an interesting if flawed movie.

Martin Edward, British crime writer said, “Hamilton’s policy of avoiding formula in his writing meant that his career as a crime novelist never had the success that I, at least, think he deserved.” It’s true – I think a mystery writer with a formulaic series character is more likely to be remembered. Like many writers of his generation, Hamilton’s writing career was interrupted by WWII. I could not find any details about his professional life apart from the bare fact that he wrote well-regarded detective thrillers. Too Much of Water was his last mystery and is listed on Roger Sobin’s “The Essential Mystery Lists.








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