Inspector Ghote Plays A Joker (1969) by H R F Keating

Inspector Ganesh Ghote is on the trail of a flamingo assassin in Bombay (i.e. Mumbai) Zoo! Doesn’t that sound exciting?

The flamingos have been shot one by one until only one is left. When the final one is killed right in front of Ghote, he is baffled by the motivation of the killer. But when he hears a tale of a recent substitution of a donkey for a racehorse, he jumps to the (surprisingly correct) conclusion that a practical joker is involved.

The joker’s tricks begin to escalate, and to nobody who’s ever read a crime book before, things soon escalate to murder…

I’ve read Keating before – this is the fifth Inspector Ghote novel, by the way – most recently The Murder Of The Maharajah, and that one was okay. Nothing desperately exciting, certainly nothing Gold-Dagger worthy in my book. In fact the other few Keating books that I read pre-blog didn’t set my world on fire either.

Nor did this one.

“Virtuous, good-natured, not very efficient. . the Inspector is a fine comic character.”

Julian Symons

Never let it be said that I don’t agree with Julian “nemesis of the Golden Age” Symons, but I don’t agree with him at all here – or ever, come to think of it. I found Ghote a steady but not particularly exciting lead, but he’s hardly a comic character. There are several bits in the book that I presume are supposed to be funny – the crimes (because massacring flamingos is such a laugh), Ghote’s useless sidekick who keeps falling asleep…

Sorry, had to go and get a corset as my sides had split. #sarcasm

My apologies for fans of the good Inspector, but this book did absolutely nothing for me. The “clue” as to who the killer is only works due to Ghote being exceptionally unobservant at one point, only to realise a blatant lie in hindsight. None of the suspects particularly interested me, apart perhaps from the Yogi who fails to walk on water, thanks to the practical joker.

No, all in all, this fell really flat for me. Is there a great Inspector Ghote book that I must read? Because without a recommendation, I can’t see myself rushing back…


  1. I have tried Keating a couple of times, but am not sure I finished any. Maybe I finished A Perfect Murder. I do recall Julian Symons liking them. A rare failure from Symons! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I read almost all of Inspector Ghote years ago but have only ever re-read Inspector Ghote Goes by Train and was disappointed. I do have two Keating’s on my TBR though, one new and one a re-read that I have fond memories of.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. From memory, this is one of the weaker ones. I think his bext ones are Insp Ghote Goes by Train, Draws a Line, Under a Monsoon Cloud, and Doing Wrong – but only one of those is a mystery. Body in the Billiard Room is an homage to Christie.


  4. I am glad to know that I am not the only one who finds Keating’s work less than thrilling. I have yet to find one that does anything for me.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.