One Man and His Bomb by H R F Keating

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One Man and His Bomb by H R F Keating

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Category: Crime
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Detective Superintendent Harriet Martens loses one twin to a terrorist bomb and the other is severely injured when she's called upon to investigate the theft of a phial of deadly herbicide. Despite the sad opening it's a light and entertaining read.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: April 2007
Publisher: Allison & Busby
ISBN: 978-0749082888

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Detective Superintendent Harriet Martens hears a peal of thunder and wonders what it portends. Soon after the telephone rings and she hears that her twin sons, who followed her into the police force, have been caught by a terrorist bomb. One is dead and the other is so badly injured that it's doubtful whether or not he will survive. But within days she's back at work investigating - without any help - the theft of a phial of herbicide, which could be far more devastating than the bomb which took her son, if it fell into the hands of a terrorist. Special Branch put an ageing Professor into the frame, but Harriet has her suspicions about W.A.G.I - a group of women campaigning against genetic interference.

I had one problem when reading this book: I couldn't believe that an Assistant Chief Constable would ask a detective superintendent to take charge of (and work without assistance) a case of such potential importance when she had lost one son a matter of a day or so ago and the other lingered between life and death. At such times emotions run high and judgement is unstable. The reason given is that it would be the best way to help her through her grief but an officer of this rank is not there to look primarily to the well being of his staff. His first concern is the safety of the public.

Working on autopilot most of the time Harriet misses an early clue which should have been obvious to the most inexperienced detective constable and fails to follow up on evidence which would have told her that there was something wrong. I was jumping up and down and shouting 'look behind you'. It's almost a classic 'sealed room' case as only a limited number of people could have known that the director of a research laboratory had not destroyed the deadly herbicide as instructed, but popped it into a filing cabinet from where it was stolen. There's the director's PA, the rather insecure Christopher Alexander, who might have let slip some information when trying to impress his journalist girlfriend and the Chair of W.A.G.I., the formidable and rather eccentric Miss Gwendoline Tritton.

It's a good story and despite the very dramatic opening not one where I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness and grief. Once I'd suspended my disbelief about whether or not Harriet would have been allowed to investigate the case the story romped along at a sharp pace with some interesting characters and a real sense of urgency about the need to find the phial. I can't say that I was surprised by the solution as it seems to be quite a common feature of H R F Keating's books that the perpetrator is obvious some time before the end of the book and the catching is an important part of the story. It was neatly clued with some interesting twists.

One Man and His Bomb is the sixth of the seven novels in the Harriet Martens series. Each can be read as a stand-alone novel and there are no spoilers for other books in the series. The book is recommended as a light but entertaining read.

My thanks to the publishers for sending this book to us.

If this type of book appeals to you then you might also enjoy the Wycliffe novels of W J Burley. For more from Keating, try The Perfect Murder: The First Inspector Ghote Mystery.

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