cover image The Body in the Billiard Room

The Body in the Billiard Room

H. R. F. Keating. Viking Books, $15.95 (247pp) ISBN 978-0-670-81744-3

This brief, entertaining novel, the 17th featuring Bombay's Inspector Ghote, finds the dauntless detective summoned to the hill station of Ootacamund (""Ooty'') in South India, where he must locate a ``diabolically ingenious murderer.'' A former ambassador, Surinder Mehta, calls upon Ghote to probe the death of Pichu, billiards marker at the genteel Ooty Club, gathering place for well-to-do Indians and English. Pichu had been found sprawled in the middle of the billiard table, stabbed in the heart; the murder weapon is missing, as are many of the club's silver trophies. Aspiring ``Great Detective'' Ghote puzzles over this troublesome case with Mehta, an aging crime novel buff who doggedly defends his theory that Pichu's slaying occurred because he was blackmailing some frequenter of the club. As Ghote stalks a motley group of suspects, he despairs of solving the homicide until the culprit's identity comes to him in a most unlikely fashion. Admirers of Keating's light, diverting mysteries will not be disappointed. (November 2)