- By H.R.F. Keating
- First published: UK: Macmillan, 2000
In his 60s, Keating began a series about ‘detectives whose human weaknesses affect the work they do’—The Rich, Good, Bad and Soft Detectives. This is the only one which became part of another series, about Superintendent Harriet Martens. She begins as a bitch—like Thatcher, she’s one of those masculine women who are tougher than the men. Unlike the ‘soft’ detective, she doesn’t change or develop (except for her attitude to the psychologist Peter Scholl)—she’s certain that she’s right even to the end of the book. What Keating does change are the reader’s feelings—by the end of the book, Harriet has earned the reader’s grudging sympathy and respect.
The plot is fairly ordinary and unexciting—a series of policemen murdered according to a pattern established in the Book of Exodus, some by ingenious methods (the second murder is an updated version of that in Rhode’s Bricklayer’s Arms). The murderer—a madwoman—is known halfway through.
Swearing rather jarring for Keating—not found in Ghote.
‘I’m hard, yes. Because I’ve got to be. I should be. But I’m hard in a good cause.’
Yet still those words prickled in her mind.
Detective Chief Inspector Harriet Martens has earned the nickname the ‘hard detective’—but she’s had to be unyielding to make it in a man’s world. And, after all, it was this toughness that inspired her successful Stop the Rot campaign, that has so provoked local criminals.
But now two of her officers have died within hours of each other. Harriet comes to believe both have been murdered—and a disturbing idea follows. For the circumstances of each death echo words from the Book of Exodus: Life for Life, Eye for Eye…
Has a killer chosen this gruesome ritual to tell Harriet she has been pushing too hard?
And if so, can she prevent the six deaths that will surely complete the quotation? Beginning with Tooth for Tooth…