- By H.R.F. Keating
- First published: UK: Macmillan, 1997
One of Keating’s late books about policemen weakened by personal failings. The policeman in this case, Chief Insp. Benholme, is ‘soft’ because he sees both sides of the argument, and forgives—is he too lenient? The downtrodden, unconfident policeman is, in fact, rather Ghote-ish.
The plot is fairly standard, focusing on the detective’s moral dilemma: his only suspect is his son. Some workmanlike detection, but the plot would be better suited to a short story. The police questioning of the youth Alec is well handled, and the subsequent revelation and confession of the culprit is effective.
My one niggle was the introduction of a modern fascist organisation—is this really suited to Keating’s gentle, whimsical, philosophical approach? Fortunately this red herring is soon dropped.
It’s not often a Nobel Prize winner gets murdered … on your patch, very likely by a murder of your own family…
Detective Chief Inspector Phil Benholme has the reputation for being too soft—but it’s only because he tries to see both sides of every story. And if he hadn’t on this occasion Professor Unwala’s death, in the study of his cluttered King’s Hampton home, would have been recorded as a tragic accident.
For Benholme’s open-minded approach reveals that Unwala—winner of the Nobel Prize in 1945—was murdered.
Was the old man a victim of violent robbery? Or of a racist assault by Britforce troopers? Or did the Professor know something about the Hampton Hoard, a collection of Celtic coins worth ₤1 million and thought to be buried somewhere nearby? Clearly Inspector Benholme has a number of leads to follow up. Unfortunately they soon begin to point to one person—Conor Benholme. What does a ‘soft cop’ do when his teenage son is also his prime suspect…?