cover image The Soft Detective

The Soft Detective

H. R. F. Keating. St. Martin's Press, $22.95 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-312-19335-5

""Soft as a duck's arse,"" his sergeant observes of London's Detective Chief Inspector Phil Benholme, although not to his face. When Professor Unwala, an aging scientist who'd won a Nobel Prize in the 1940s, is murdered, Benholme's calm detachment faces a terrible test: his own teenage son emerges as a suspect. Conor Benholme was in the victim's neighborhood but he refuses to provide a credible explanation for his presence there. Inspector Benholme views his son's possible involvement in the murder as a rebuke to his own parenting. Was he too soft a father as Conor grew up? Dutifully reporting Conor to his superiors, Benholme is removed from the case and begins investigating scenarios that would clear the boy. Racism may have figured in the professor's death. A paramilitary group operated in the area. Unwala's late wife, an archeologist, discovered a legendary buried treasure, according to the local rumor mill. Conor's classmates frequented the scene of the murder to buy drugs. Within this solidly plotted story, Keating's compelling personal portraits stand out. Scenes of the police interrogating the teenage suspects are especially gripping. (Oct.) FYI: Keating, awarded the Crime Writers Association Diamond Dagger Award for Lifetime Achievement, writes the Inspector Ghote series.