British author H.R.F. Keating has long been recognized for his willingness to experiment with the conventions of detective fiction. A number of his recent novels, for instance, have addressed the motives and lifestyles of his sleuths as much as they have crimes. He continues that pattern with A Detective in Love
, in which Harriet Martens--the so-called Hard Detective--is undone by her passion for a colleague with whom she probes the slaying of curvaceous teenage tennis star Bubbles Xingara.
The "Brit with a Hit," as Bubbles's American fans know her, has been found on her Leven Vale estate, stabbed through the throat. Due to this victim's prominence and the shorthandedness of the local police, Detective Superintendent Martens is seconded from adjacent Birchester to take charge of the case. Her best suspect may be a "shambling mess of a man" given to exposing himself. Other likely murderers include Bubbles's secretary, a once-wealthy classmate involved with the decedent's stepfather; a French gangster whose affections Ms. Xingara too publicly rebuffed; and a computer geek who hoards Bubbles images from the Internet. As weeks pass without a breakthrough, however, Martens worries for her future with this investigation as well as her ability to resist Anselm Brent, a country constable of dubious talent, who nonetheless makes the hardened Harriet go all soft inside. Keating's persistent attention to his protagonist's sex life begins to grate, as his principal plot bounces repeatedly between hope and failure. But this novel--the second part of a trilogy, following The Hard Detective--compensates somewhat with a delightfully peculiar cast of secondary players and Martens's comical impatience toward everyone and everything around her, even her own media-made reputation. --J. Kingston Pierce
Keating, with more than 40 novels to his name, may be best known for his atmospheric mysteries starring Inspector Ghote of Bombay, but his fairly new series, starring "the Hard Detective," Harriet Martens of the Greater Birchester Police, has been gaining steady acclaim. Martens is a fascinating character, a combination of professional toughness and private vulnerability. Unlike many novelists who offer tough-talking, hard-living stereotypes of women detectives, especially women cops, Keating is able to achieve a complex, human characterization. In this latest Keating, Martens' hard-won professionalism and carefully constructed personal life are cracked open by a surprising love affair. The mystery itself centers on the high-profile murder of Bubbles Xingara, media darling, tennis star, and Britain's best hope at Wimbledon, on the grounds of her country estate. Martens falls madly in lust with a fellow officer, threatening both the investigation and her marriage. Well crafted and riveting. Connie FletcherCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved