H.R.F. Keating published his first Inspector Ghote mystery, The Perfect Murder, in 1964, and went on writing them practically right up to his death in 2011. The one I’ve been reading just now, Breaking and Entering–it was a Christmas present to my wife–came out in 2000. And it’s wonderful.
These books were good from the get-go, and they just kept on getting better. Keating never lost his touch. If you like tricky mysteries featuring believable characters in exotic settings, this long series is for you.
Breaking and Entering concerns a series of jewel thefts that have so far baffled the Bombay Police Crime Branch. When most of the detectives have to be re-assigned to a high-profile murder case, the humble and unappreciated Inspector Ganesh Ghote is saddled with the jewel thefts. Worse, and unexpectedly, he also gets saddled with his old acquaintance Axel Svensson, a big Swede working for UNESCO and quite out of place in India. They last collaborated on The Perfect Murder. Now Svensson’s wife has died, he’s depressed, and he’s come back to India for a change of scene.
Ghote catches the wall-climbing cat burglar. His solution to the crimes is fixed in logic and evidence, yet totally takes you by surprise. But in solving the jewel thefts, Ghote finds himself suddenly in position to solve the high-profile murder, too–with the help of the most unlikely allies you can imagine.
Inspector Ghote has been likened to Columbo, and they do have a lot in common. But Ghote works in India, against a background of Indian culture and procedures, and it makes for fascinating reading. I mean, these books are just so cool! They’re full of incidents, scenes, characters, and exchanges that you’ll remember for many years to come. And they’re all terrific.