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.
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.