cover image The Hard Detective

The Hard Detective

H. R. F. Keating. Minotaur Books, $21.95 (236pp) ISBN 978-0-312-24648-8

Contemporary British police procedural meets old-fashioned puzzle mystery in this slick, streamlined effort from veteran Edgar-winner Keating (The Bad Detective, The Soft Detective, etc.). Detective Chief Inspector Harriet Martens has put Greater Birchester's criminal element on notice with her tough ""Stop the Rot"" campaign. Now she faces a far greater challenge: tracking down the fiend who's taken to murdering police officers in accordance with the ""eye for eye, tooth for tooth"" passage from Exodus. Though she identifies the killer fairly early on, the hard detective cannot prevent further deaths, all contrived to fit the biblical verse. The murder motive, once revealed, becomes simply a given. In the end Harriet deliberately puts herself at risk, daring the crazed killer to come after her ""stripe for stripe,"" that is, with a whip. You can bet that she'll get a taste of the lash that she might otherwise have avoided by taking some basic security precautions. (Picking up the suspect, of whom the police have a good description, at one of the city's sex shops that sell whips might have been worth a try, too.) A formulaic plot and minimal characterization allow Keating to focus on the essentials of crime and detection. Harriet's spirited exchanges with psychologist Dr. Peter ""Smellyfeet"" Scholl (on the treatment of criminals) and with tabloid reporter Tim Patterson (on the role of the press) lend some welcome texture to a shallow if compelling entertainment. (May)