Books by H.R.F. Keating

H. R. F. Keating is an icon in the field of mystery novels. His latest honor is the Life Achievement Award from Malice Domestic. He has received much praise for his books, including the Harriet Martens and Inspector Ghote series. Keating has won the Gold

Released: Aug. 18, 2009

"'Why, oh why, is it hard so often to decide what to do?' laments Ghote once he's in possession of the facts. Despite Protima's complaints, his indecision stems only from a delicacy that was evidently in full flower during his very first case."
Eight years after bringing down the curtain on the storied career of Bombay's Inspector Ghote (Breaking and Entering, 2001, etc.), Keating raises it once more for a prequel. Read full book review >
Released: June 10, 2008

"Harriet is muffled by frustration and grief for her son (One Man and His Bomb, 2006, etc.), and the detective work is a bit of a slog. The capture of the murderer, however, winds up Keating's usual suave handling of interrogations with a bang."
Detective Superintendent Harriet Martens's plan to resign from the Greater Birchester Police is put on hold when she witnesses a murder. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 28, 2006

"The mystery is solved by a series of convenient, and conveniently delayed, recollections. It's a testament to this series that the death of the heroine's son produces a reaction that's stronger but no more heartfelt than usual."
The Hard Detective's cases (A Detective at Death's Door, 2005, etc.) always try her strength, but this one may be the hardest yet. Read full book review >
Released: May 16, 2005

"Middling for this quirky series, less penetrating than A Detective in Love (2002) but more resourceful and substantial than A Detective Under Fire (2004)."
A serial poisoner's first target is the Hard Detective of the Greater Birchester Police. Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 3, 2005

"As thin a mystery as Keating has ever set, without the complexity of morals and motives that marks his best work."
The new chief constable of Greater Birchester Police gives Det. Supt. Harriet Martens (A Detective Under Fire, 2004, etc.) two weeks to solve a 30-year-old murder. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 11, 2004

"Readers will certainly feel for dogged Harriet, though the punchline, as so often in Keating's civilized entertainments, might better have suited a short story."
When a pesky London newspaper threatens to expose major corruption at the highest levels of the London force, the call goes out to the Hard Detective from the Midlands to investigate. Read full book review >
Released: Dec. 1, 2002

"Transcends Harriet's debut (The Hard Detective, 2000) to join Keating's trenchant studies of The Rich Detective (1993), The Good Detective (1995), The Soft Detective (1998), and The Bad Detective (1999)."
Because you never know when Eros may strike without warning or pity, John Piddock has an unusually broad-minded agreement with his wife, Det. Supt. Harriet Martens of Greater Birchester: occasional extramarital sex won't affect their relationship. Minutes after she arrives at neighboring Leven Vale to take charge of the investigation into the murder of tennis star Bubbles Xingara, stabbed to death just a few feet from her own bailiwick, that agreement is sorely tested when Harriet becomes instantly and rapturously infatuated not with Leven Vale's lothario DI ("Handy Andy") Anderson but with DI Anselm Brent, her stolid local subordinate on the case. Harriet struggles womanfully to throw herself into the details of the case, but every suspect that pops up—Bubbles's legatees, her empty-headed mother and her stepfather/coach; the possible resentment of the suddenly impoverished school friend she made her secretary; the French gangster whose advances Bubbles publicly disdained; the cracked poet who elegized her in doggerel; the California coach sacked by the stepfather; the Leven Vale roofer who abruptly quit the neighborhood when he heard of Bubbles's death—turns out to be a red herring. And in truth, Keating is much less interested in wrapping up the mystery than in tracing the stages—predictable but by turns touching, amusing, and painful—in the course of a forbidden love that can't possibly run smooth. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 19, 2001

"The usual indifferent mystery-mongering is spiced by a gallery of sharply observed social types, Keating's usual eye for the nuances of protocol, and a delicately comic sentence-by-sentence verbal texture that's almost vanished from the modern detective story."
While the favored officers in Bombay's Detection of Crime Branch investigate the high-profile murder of air-conditioning magnate Anil Ajmani, killed inside his closely guarded compound by someone who managed to circumvent all his elaborate security measures, Inspector Ganesh Ghote (Bribery, Corruption Also, 1999, etc.) has been shunted aside to the relatively minor case of the cat burglar who feisty old columnist Pinky Dinkarrao has dubbed Yeshwant. Even though the thief's m.o. is distinctive—he climbs the walls of buildings, slips through open windows, and escapes each time with a single valuable piece of jewelry his victim has providentially neglected to lock in her safe—he's so careful not to leave clues that Ghote, hobbled by the presence of Axel Svensson, the retired Swedish official who helped mangle Ghote's very first case (The Perfect Murder, 1963), despairs of ever catching him. But Ghote's patient questioning of the robbery victims—a round of endlessly polite interrogations that gives Keating an opportunity for still another incisive tour of contemporary Indian mores—eventually uncovers a pattern that not only identifies Yeshwant but tempts Ghote into a trade: letting the thief off the legal hook in turn for evidence that just might give Ghote a decisive advantage over the rival inspector who's been placed in charge of the coveted Ajmani murder. Read full book review >
Released: May 11, 2000

Detective Chief Inspector Harriet Martens, on a clean-up-Birchester campaign the press has dubbed `Stop the Rot," is pulled off the detail when her police comrades are killed according to the list in Exodus: Life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. Since the third murder was of her immediate superior, she is assigned his task: Find the cop killer while working with Dr. Peter Scholl's input. Scholl and Martens differ over most aspects of the case, including the alleged sex of the perp. A new victim, who doesn't seem to fit the pattern of dead policeman, turns out to be a retired village constable. For all their conscientious detective work, it's mainly a bit of luck that leads Marten to the culprit, though not before her precinct loses another man to the Batley Street fire (`Burning for burning`), another is neck-gashed (`Wound for wound`), and the press is hounding her for results when a lashing brings stripe for stripe. Ignoring Scholl's advice, Martens challenges the killer to go one-on-one with her, and Scholl must rescue her before a second meeting goads the demon to shout out the motives for the dastardly actions and Martens can make an arrest. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1999

Detective Sergeant Jack Stallworthy, of the Abbotsport CID, is so efficient that as soon as he looks over the burglary scene at Councillor Arthur Symes's house, he knows the burglar was Jinkie Morrison; he's so persuasive an interrogator that Jinkie's admitted the job five minutes after Stallworthy drops in on him; and he's so devoted a husband that he plans to put every pound of his share of the burglary proceeds toward the retirement his wife Lily dreams of. But Lily's dreams have recently gone into overdrive. Instead of a modest cottage in Devon, she wants the soft life on the Asian island paradise of Ko Samui. So Jack, nothing if not game for one last bribe, accepts the deal that computer CEO Emslie Warnaby offers him: sole ownership of a Ko Samui hotel in return for a pale-blue folder of compromising documents the police confiscated from Symes's place when they arrested him (!) on some bigger charges than burglary. As you'd expect, though, the path to that pale-blue folder is so carpet-mined with problems that every time Jack takes a step toward the bureau that's storing it all unawares, he ends up further from it than ever. Veteran Keating-watchers will have fun seeing whether Jack fails in his simple-sounding mission, or whether he succeeds to his cost. Keating (Bribery, Corruption Also, p. 1088, etc.) captures the irony and desperation of Donald E. Westlake's comic capers, though without Westlake's ingenuity or antic humor. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 4, 1999

Before she met and married Inspector Ganesh Ghote of the Bombay Crime Branch, Protima was a Calcutta Bengali, and now that she's inherited an estate from her "cousin-uncle" Amit Chattopadhyay, she has every intention of rounding off her life in the land of her childhood. There are only three problems. One, Inspector Ghote isn't quite ready to retire and become plain Mr. Ghote; he doesn't even like being treated as a civilian by the likes of the decedent's smiling lawyer, A.K. Dutt-Dastar. Two, the estate turns out to be a tumbledown house that's been occupied by squatters for the years Protima's cousin-uncle has been languishing in the hospital. Three, an anonymous purchaser has expressed an interest in buying the house, and he won't take no for an answer. When Protima—determined to evict the squatters, refurbish the, house, and move in'sets her face against the mysterious buyer, Inspector Ghote (Asking Questions, 1997, etc.) feels himself trapped uncomfortably between two fearsome opponents, neither of whom he truly wants to win. His attempts to find out the identity and motives of the purchaser, and to take arms against him despite the marsh of local intrigue he's sinking into, form the backbone of this leisurely, shaggy tale, whose final revelation may be too subtle for all but Ghote's most devoted followers. Despite Protima's demurrals, though, it's reassuring to find Calcutta just as corrupt as Ghote's beat back in Bombay. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1998

Detective Chief Inspector Phil Benholme, of the Barshire CID, is so agonizingly reflective that his ability to see every possible side of even the simplest questions has cost him his marriage as well as a certain amount of respect on the job. True, when the first bulletin of a sudden fatality in Sandymount comes in, it's Benholme's resourceful questioning of the obvious that marks the case as murder. Why would anybody kill an elderly Nobel laureate like Professor Edul Unwala, who was survived by no relatives but an indifferent sister-in-law, and who lived alone except for a vast number of caged mice? Again, Benholme's imagination can produce half a dozen possibilities: racial hatred, the enmity of the neo-fascist Britforce, a search for the legendary Hampton Hoard Unwala's late wife may have had left clues to. But when the evidence—the presence of a teenaged boy on the scene, a uniform coat from nearby Harrison Academy, some casually sharp-eyed witnesses—begins to point toward his own son Conor, Benholme's cursed talent for seeing every side of every issue (perhaps Conor has a simple explanation that's perfectly innocent, perhaps he really was on the scene when Unwala's head was bashed in) provokes his superiors to suspicion, his ex-wife to fury, and Conor to unauthorized leave. Veteran Keating (Asking Questions, 1997, etc.) cunningly draws out the particulars of the simple-seeming case that so vexes Benholme till the startlingly sudden resolution. Read full book review >
Released: March 10, 1997

The exalted circle surrounding film star Asha Rani has long been enjoying the clandestine benefits of ACE-i, an experimental medication for hypertension that some obliging soul's been smuggling out of the Mira Behn Institute for Medical Research. But when a faulty batch of ACE-i almost kills a director friend of Asha Rani's, a purred request from Greater Bombay's lordly Commissioner of Police sends Inspector Ghote to Mira Behn's door to ask who supplied the bad medicine. The answer to the Commissioner's question is obvious—the culprit must have been Chandra Chagoo, the snake handler responsible for extracting the venom on which ACE-i is based—if only because Chandra Chagoo has been murdered and can't defend himself. The Commissioner, satisfied that the case is closed, insists that Ghote's top priority in investigating the death be the protection of Mira Behn's reputation. But how can Ghote comply when the only three suspects—the Institute's director, Prof. P.P. Phaterpaker; star biochemist Dr. Gauri Subbiah, the developer of ACE-i; and Dr. Ram Mahipal, who just quit his research job to lecture lowly first- year medical students—are the very lifeblood of Mira Behn? Beloved veteran Ghote (Doing Wrong, 1994, etc.) succeeds at last by tactfully asking every indiscreet question possible, except for the shudderingly obvious one that would've cut this archly amusing fable to short-story length. Read full book review >
Released: Dec. 1, 1995

Keating takes a break from his beloved Inspector Ghote series to resume his anatomy of constabulary ethics (The Rich Detective, 1993), this time with a study of a successful copper pushed to the wall when a slip from his past catches up with him. Just when Ned French, Assistant Chief Constable for the City of Norchester, needs all his energy and attention—there's rumor of a gigantic drug hijacking out of the Norchester airport by the notorious Corrigan cousins—a suicide's confession reopens an ancient case back in Nottingham, where Constable French and his sergeant had coerced a bombing confession from Heather Jonas, an environmental activist who may have spent years in prison for somebody else's crime. As if French's life weren't complicated enough, his confrontation with Heather's determined solicitor, Deborah Brooke, ends with his falling into bed with her, even though each of them is bent on discrediting the other—just as the Norchester police continue to plot against one another about how and when and whether they ought to move against the Corrigans. Bulldog French is forced, despite himself, to ask whether a good detective relies more on tenacity or compassion. A dark fable that brings a welcome new tautness to Keating's work—though American audiences, 25 years after Dirty Harry, may wonder what all the fuss is about. Read full book review >
DOING WRONG by H.R.F. Keating
Released: Oct. 31, 1994

Inspector Ganesh Ghote has barely had time to clear off his desk since Cheating Death (p. 888) when he's called out on the strangling of Mrs. Shoba Popatkar, late Minister of Railways and sempiternal do-gooder. Stuck for leads, Ghote follows the slender trail of Mrs. Popatkar's recent railway ticket to the holy city of Banares: a 28-hour pilgrimage over his superior's protests leaves him in a place he knows nothing about, home to 2,000 temples and garrulous old Inspector Mishra, who seems to have an anecdote about every one of them. Staggering under the weight of the irrelevantly sacred, Ghote doesn't know that his every misstep is bringing him closer to the rabbity villain, H. K. Verma, aspiring Minister for Social Upliftment, who killed Mrs. Popatkar before she could expose the ancient apostasy his political idol Krishnan Kalgutkar confessed in his unpublished Recollections. Ghote can't imagine how he could ever find the murderer with so few clues, or even bring home the crime to Verma after he becomes convinced of his guilt; Verma sweats bullets over the very sight of his nemesis. The result is a deadlock of puny antagonists with impossible spiritual burdens. Like The Iciest Sin (1990) and The Rich Detective (1992), another fable about the morality of detection. This time, though, Keating cuts his comic take on Simenon a little fine, relying too much on mangled language—a political poster urges, ``Please To Vote for Communist Party (Marxist'')—and Inspector Ghote's ineffable charm. (Author tour) Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1994

In the wake of the Central Bureau of Investigation's concise, polished, and utterly unhelpful report on a cheating scandal at Bombay's Oceanic College, Inspector Ghote is sent to ascertain how Bala Chambhar, the student now near death after an overdose of sleeping pills, could have purloined an exam paper from Principal Bembalkar's locked office. It doesn't take long for Ghote to figure out that this locked room was rather porous after all, but by that time he's realized that Chambhar, though he was selling copies of the exam all over Bombay, can't have been the person who took it in the first place; the thief (and poisoner) must have been somebody who wanted to discredit the Principalji. One of his aspiring successors, perhaps: the potbellied Dean, the unruffled Head of English, the self-styled Professor of Astrology? Or an aggrieved lecturer in English looking for revenge after getting tarred by disaffected students? Or one of the revolting students themselves? Giving his usual sublimely convincing imitation of a ``totally stupid police officer,'' Ghote stumbles through a maze of confrontations with student protesters, amateur kidnappers, and the pettiest of petty bureaucrats before a hint from his wife sets him on the path to Chambhar's would-be killer. Something of a holiday from the intensity of Ghote's last appearance (The Iciest Sin, 1990) and Keating's most recent novel (The Rich Detective, 1993)—a return to the foolishly endearing manner that masked the sly social commentary of Ghote's earliest adventures. Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1993

Keating's last Inspector Ghote novel (The Iciest Sin) focused on the ethics of detection; this ironic tale goes still further in exploring the obsession of Detective Inspector Bill Sylvester, who investigates an anonymous tip that polished antiques-dealer Charles Roanoke has killed three nursing-home residents for the money he's inveigled them into leaving him. Despite increasingly fervent warnings from Supt. Sugden, the Big White Chief, to lay off well-connected Roanoke, Sylvester continues to work on the case even after a fabulous lottery prize leaves him wealthy and piques him into quitting the force. Edging further and further outside the law himself, he tracks down a fourth victim, identifies a potential fifth, and sets a series of elaborate traps for Roanoke, whose costly failure is still less disastrous than the success Sylvester seems fated to endure. All the dry-eyed penetration of an English Simenon, coupled with Keating's usual sly humor: a treat not to be missed. Read full book review >
CRIME WAVES I by H.R.F. Keating
Released: April 1, 1992

Retiring after a 25-year stewardship as editor of the annual Crime Writers Association anthology, Herbert Harris is replaced, this year, by critic/mystery writer Keating, who includes three original stories (Catherine Aird's slight car-mishap; Mike Ripley's droll plot against Shakespeare; and Michael A. Lewin's hilarious spin on Dan Quayle as an accidental detective), six EQMM reprints (his own paean to ``The Speckled Band''; David Williams's clever customs comeuppance; Robert Barnard's truly malicious tale of seasonal giving; Julian Symons's elegantly written suburban nightmare; Reginald Hill's melodramatic horror story; and Susan Moody's twist on the writer's experience with crime), plus eight stories unfamiliar to American readers from such as Antonia Fraser (Jemima Shore in jeopardy), Michael Gilbert (a keen look at business improprieties), Liza Cody (hooliganism at a theme park), and Simon Brett (a long, drawn-out bit of fatherly advice). Also on hand: Paula Gosling, Margaret Yorke, Peter Lovesey, and former editor Harris. Low-key and diverting, though lacking a standout. Read full book review >