The Perfect Murder: The First Inspector Ghote Mystery by H.R.F. Keating

The Perfect Murder was originally written and published in the 1960s, but has recently been re-released with a shiny new cover.  H.R.F. Keating was an unknown name to me when I picked up this book, but now I’ve started recommending him to people who I think will appreciate the book’s light, amusing and very British tone.  This isn’t a heavy literary masterpiece, but it’s a lovely, enjoyable read.

Having just said that the book has a British tone, the setting is also a sensory delight of Indian culture, people and city life.  What I mean is that you can tell the author is British by the way he writes and the details he picks up on, but the characters (except for Swede Axel Svensson, who is the perfect polite-but-puzzled Westerner) are a great mix of Indian personalities.  Perhaps they’re all terrible stereotypes, I don’t know, but as every character was different from the next it didn’t feel that way to me.

Inspector Ghote was a welcome change to the usual angry drug, cigarette or alcohol-addicted crime-solver we’re used to in modern fiction.  He is flawed, but he is very lovable and really does try to do the right thing.  Unfortunately he is frequently thwarted by his suspects, his superiors, his beloved nagging wife, and even his young son.

If you’re a fan of Alexander McCall Smith, who writes the preface to this edition, I think you’ll also appreciate the sedate pace of this book.  I’m glad that Penguin have made the decision to re-launch this book to a new audience as a classic – I would probably never have discovered it otherwise, which would have been a shame.  I definitely intend to try the others in the series too!

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