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.
Hours after learning on March 15, 1960, of his promotion from Assistant Inspector to the dizzying heights of the Detection of Crime Branch, Ganesh Ghote is snatched from the side of his loyal wife Protima, pregnant with their first child, whom he’d planned to take to a screening of the Laurence Olivier Hamlet. The Bombay police commissioner is troubled by a letter from his former friend Robert Dawkins, a retired civil engineer expressing bewilderment that his pregnant wife Iris should have committed suicide. Protima will not only miss Hamlet but will be deprived of her husband’s support while he’s off in Mahableshwar condoling with the irascible widower; asking questions of his closemouthed servants; and fencing with Inspector Pathan Barrani, whose nickname when he was Ghote’s schoolfellow was Bullybhoy. Most readers will be well ahead of Ghote in identifying the motive for Iris’s death. But few of them will match him for sensitivity, kindness, consideration and simple humanity as his attentiveness to echoes of Hamlet leads him to the mystery’s solution.
“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.