|Cover design by Romek Marber.|
I could never really believe in Casson and his hunt for a blackmailer. It didn't matter how often the narrator justified his actions, and he seemed intent on justifying them every few pages, there was very little about Casson's behaviour which made any sense: his motivation seemed irrational, his confidence in his own conjectures seemed delusional, and his willingness to neglect his business while devoting his time and money to the search for a blackmailer defied belief. With every advancing page, all I could see were the flaws.
It was something of a surprise, therefore, to find that The Hammersmith Maggot had been selected as a classic of crime by Barzun and Taylor. I have no idea what it was they found so compelling - the book I read featured an unappealing protagonist, fairly pompous prose ('two barges were leaning heavily on the bare mud, looking like torpid louts still unrecovered from the night's full swell of intoxication'), some doubtful wisdom, such as that on the drinking habits of women quoted above, and an unbelievable plot. It was the type of story in which the criminal helpfully leaves the single clue upon which his detection will ultimately depend, and where the sleuth turns up trumps with every guess.