H. R. F. KEATING – Go West, Inspector Ghote. Inspector Ghote #12. Doubleday Crime Club, US, hardcover, 1981. Penguin, US, paperback, 1982. Previously published in the UK by Collins, hardcover, 1981.

   In commenting on The Murder of the Maharaja, the book Keating wrote immediately before this one, I suggested it as the ideal candidate for he annual Agatha Christie Award, if there was one.

   There’s no John Dickson Carr Award for the year’s best locked room detective story, either, and it’s a shame, for here’s a book that would be an odds-on favorite for this year’s prize.

   In his latest book, Keating returns to his long-time series character, Inspector Ganesh V. Ghote of the Bombay C.I.D. The puzzle concerns the mysterious death of a swami known to have been alone in his empty house. For comic relief there is an overbearing (and grossly overweight) American private eye, who gives Ghote an unwanted and unwelcome helping hand. And, just as Carr often did himself, Keating stirs in more than a hint of the supernatural as well.

   Ghote, not so incidentally, is in the United States for this case, on the trail of a young girl from India who has apparently succumbed to the charms of a Hindi-California yogi with a life style to match. Dazed by a mind-numbing culture shock at first, the meek self-effacing Ghote at length rises to the occasion.

   Providing most of the charm of this offbeat sort of detective story is the overwhelming contrast between Ghote’s two worlds, Bombay and Los Angeles.

   It’s just too bad that the solution to the puzzle has to deflate the effect so considerably, although perhaps not fatally. I remain with the feeling that a completely thorough police search would have revealed the secret of the yogi’s strange death right away.

Rating: A minus.

–Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 5, No. 6, Nov/Dec 1981.