Monday, January 27, 2014

Too Much of Water: Review

Too Much of Water by Bruce Hamilton (1958) takes place aboard a small cabin ship--with single class accommodations for no more than twenty-five passengers--bound from Liverpool on a journey to the West Indies. On the journey a number of rather fatal "accidents" occur.  The list of accidents include a tumble overboard, the drowning of young boy, and a death in the bath of a YMCA secretary.  It's obvious that someone is steadily reducing the passenger list, but is s/he a madman or is there a method in the madness?  The only thing all the victims seem to have in common is an irritation factor--they were all pests of one sort or another.  The amateur detective of the piece is Edgar Cantrell, a middle-aged conductor who is on his way to Barbados for a rest cure.  When one last victim is found before the ship reaches Barbados, Cantrell must work fast to find the real culprit before the ship's officers turn his friend, a talented countertenor, over to the police.  The circumstantial evidence is strong against Maurice Marcus, but Cantrell knows he must be innocent. But who among the remaining passengers could it be?  The alcoholic major? The planter from Barbados? Marcus's rival in love? One of the strong and athletic cricket players? Or perhaps one of the intellectual young men bound for teaching posts?  The ladies would seem to be out of it--but who know what strength might come if a scorned woman's fury backs it....

Hamilton gives us a near-four-star story.  The characters are interesting and somewhat comic at times.  Cantrell makes for a nice, male version of the middle-aged busybody getting himself drawn into a bit of amateur detective work.  There are plenty of red herrings and a twist or two--and I could fully believe in the identity of the murderer when revealed.  The only quibble I have is in the wrap-up.  Cantrell confronts the murderer much earlier than expected and so I was all ready for a final twist that would reveal a different culprit entirely--especially when it is shown that there is no real evidence to give to the authorities.  The final surprise is a bit contrived--we don't get a signed confession--but the denouement puts quite a strain on the reader's suspension of disbelief.  Some real clues and real detective work that would truly convict would be more satisfying than what we're given.  Sorry to be so vague--but I don't want to give anything away.

Don't get me wrong--this is a very entertaining mystery by an author I had never heard of and definitely worth a look if you can find a copy.  Three and 3/4 stars.

This fulfills the "Involves Water" square on the Golden Vintage Bingo card.




Fulfills Requirements for Challenges: Vintage Mystery Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge, Bookish TBR, Cruisin' Thru the Cozies, Century of Books, Outdo Yourself, Men in Uniform, How Many Books, 100 Plus Challenge, 52 Books in 52 Weeks, Book Bingo, Monopoly

6 comments:

Major said...

Amazing, I recently reviewed this book for Paperback Swap. It's at

http://blog.paperbackswap.com/mystery-monday-too-much-of-water/2014/01/

fredamans said...

I think I would really enjoy this one. Due to the cruise aspect and the mishaps while on board, reminds me of a book I read by Josi Kilpack called Baked Alaska. It was a mystery aboard a cruise line too.
Great review!

Bev Hankins said...

Major: Very apt quote (about the diner and the menu)! How cool that we each read this at about the same time.

John said...

Bruce is Patrick Hamilton's brother. Patrick is best known for Gas Light(AKA Angel Street), Rope, and Hangover Square. He also worte a number of non-mystery/crime related novels. I've always wanted to read one of Bruce's books, especially his early ones from the 1930s. TOO MUCH OF WATER will probably be easiest to find since it comes in a 1980s paperback edition.

Yvette said...

Sounds good, Bev - even with your hesitation about the ending. (Don't you hate when that happens?) Anyway, I love a murder cruise. Never heard of this one, but I'm adding it to my list. Thanks for the intro.

classicmystery said...

Never heard of the book or the author, but it's going on the (very long) list. Thanks for this review, Bev.