H.R.F. Keating






Allison and Busby, this edition published Aug 2006
Reviewed by Sunnie Gill

Detective Superintendent Harriet Martens is at home with her husband when a loud clap of thunder makes her jump. She comments that she sometimes feels a sense of foreboding at the sound. Minutes later the phone rings. Harrietís twin sons, both serving police officers, have been caught in a bomb blast. One is dead and the other is lying in a coma. Harriet and her husband race to the surviving sonís bedside.

The very next day Harriet is called into the office by her boss. Assistant Chief Constable Brown feels the best medicine for Harrietís grief is work. A nearby research laboratory has been working on a new herbicide which is far more potent than they expected. Someone has broken in and stolen the one existing vial of this lethal stuff. The fear is that terrorists have it and will replicate it, thereby threatening the country. All this is very hush, hush of course. The powers that be canít afford the media getting hold of this story. To ensure security, Harriet is to work alone to try and track down the thief and find the herbicide. She is to tell no one.

I had a number of problems with ONE MAN AND HIS BOMB. The first was the idea that a police officer, grieving over the loss of one son and the potential death of a second, would be assigned such a difficult and delicate case while still trying to coming to terms with her loss. The other is that she is working entirely alone on a matter so important.

During her investigation Harriet seems to take what she is told at face value. She makes little or no effort to follow up on information to check its veracity. I could accept that if the protagonist was an amateur sleuth but in a high ranking police officer, it seemed totally out of place.

There are also two Harriets: Harriet Martens, professional police officer, and Harriet Piddock, the grieving mother. Harriet the mother refers to the working police officer as Hologram Harriet. From time to time she pauses during her work to grieve. This seemed to be a little contrived and didnít really convey any great sense of sorrow to the reader.

ONE MAN AND HIS BOMB is the sixth Harriet Martens book and perhaps I have missed something in not reading the earlier ones. I found ONE MAN AND HIS BOMB lacklustre . To someone who has read a lot of police procedurals the sometimes very basic lapses was annoying and frustrating.

H.R.F. Keating is best known for his Inspector Ghote series. ONE MAN AND HIS BOMB was a very disappointing re-introduction to this author.

Aug 2007 review originally published on Murder and Mayhem


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