1930, India under the British Raj. People are congregating on the opulent Summer Palace of Bhopore to meet the Maharajah and his entourage – the heir to the throne, his mistress, his chief minister and the British Resident. But the Maharajah’s sense of humour is an acquired taste – his love of practical jokes, both blatant and subtle, isn’t making him any friends.
After an eventful dinner, the next morning the party head out on a hunting exhibition – but a gun backfires and his highness Maharajahdhiraj Raj Rajeshwar Lieutenant Sri Sri Sri Sahib Bahadur Mahapundit Mahasurma Sir Albert Singhji, Grand Commander Of The Order Of The Star Of India, Grand Commander Of The Order Of The Indian Empire, Doctor Of Literature (Benares), Maharajah of Bhopore lies dead. But it was no accident…
My third entry for Past Offences #1980book Crimes Of The Century (still time to join in) – so far, there’s not been a great deal of success. Monk’s Hood wasn’t my cup of tea at all and A Killing Kindness shows that one great idea does not make a great mystery. So how was this one?
H R F Keating was a prolific author, although I’m having trouble locating a complete bibliography online. He was President of the Detection Club, that most eminent of bodies, from 1985-2000, and won the CWA Gold Dagger twice. Once for The Perfect Murder (featuring his recurring sleuth Inspector Ghote) and for this one. So it’s bound to be good, yes? And look at that quote on the cover – “A classic whodunit in the tradition of Agatha Christie’s Death On The Nile“. So even more evidence of the quality, surely?
Hmm… maybe I’m being a little harsh here – there’s a lot to like. The opening section leading up to the murder and the denouement are very entertaining reads. Keating has a lightness to his writing (in these sections) and it bounces along very nicely. As with Death On The Nile, there’s a good range of suspects.
Unfortunately, the middle section sags. It’s slow and the wit seems to less in evidence in these sections. The insistence of there only being five suspects seemed forced to me, as there are a number of simple ways for a killer to get round this problem that were basically ignored.
It picks up in the denouement and it is a fairly clued mystery – although nothing on the level of Death On The Nile. Basically, if you spot something, then you’ll know who the killer is. As is often the case, this would have worked well as a novella, but the middle section, as I said, slows everything down.
What does it say about the year it was written? Not a lot, as it’s set in 1930, but the India of the book does seem to smack of the stereotype that was on television at the time, but it may be perfectly authentic – I’ve never been to India (especially not in 1930) so it could be totally authentic.
Anyway, the book is Worth a Look, but I’m baffled as to how it won the Gold Dagger.
Oh, and ignore Wikipedia – the book doesn’t feature Inspector Ghote, partly as he didn’t possess a time machine…