Rules, Regs and Rotten Eggs by H R F Keating

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Rules, Regs and Rotten Eggs by H R F Keating

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Category: Crime
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The seventh book in the series which features Harriet Martens, the hard detective, offers a plot with plenty of twists and turns and some interesting characters. The perpetrator is obvious before the end of the book but the part played by the Crown Prosecution Service provides an additional point of interest.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 264 Date: April 2007
Publisher: Allison & Busby
ISBN: 978-0749080303

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Detective Superintendent Harriet Martens is driving home with her husband after a boring duty lunch when she finds their car trapped in an anti-hunting demonstration. To make matters worse the speaker is pro-hunting and rotten eggs are being hurled at him. One egg looks rather different to the rest and it explodes close to Robert Roughouse, leaving him badly injured. Who would want to kill the anti-protestor and who are the friends who spirit him away from the local hospital early the following morning? Why is he in a private hospital which seems more able to treat addiction in the famous and wealthy than physical injuries? And just why is it almost impossible to get to speak to the victim?

It's not that long since Harriet Martens suffered the death of one of her twin sons in a terrorist outrage whilst the other suffered severe injuries. Her new boss feels sure that she's not the detective she used to be and her investigations are coloured by the need to establish that she is The Hard Detective of old - and to come to terms with the fact that if she can't find a way of working under the current regime she really has no option but to give up the job which she's loved for all of her working life. Is it chauvinism? Discrimination? Or simply a bully, promoted beyond his capabilities, who scents a weakness which might or might not be there?

The plot is set against the background of current events - anti-hunt and pro-hunting protests, terrorism and illegal immigration - but the story isn't dominated by these topics. Keating has, of course, long been a master of such stories and this is the seventh outing for Harriet Martens. The plots remain fresh and topical and each can easily be read as a stand-alone novel with no spoilers for earlier books in the series.

It's not the most exciting plot that I've read in a long time being mainly about why Roughouse became a victim and then about whether or not the perpetrator would be caught. The 'who' was obvious - and intentionally so - at a fairly early stage. The book's a good, old-fashioned police procedural but taken that step further, as you would expect of Keating. Most writers stop at the point where we know who killed the vicar, but Rules, Regs and Rotten Eggs looks at the part played by the Crown Prosecution Service and then at how the perpetrator is brought into custody.

The characters are sympathetic if not always compelling. Occasionally I wanted to smack Harriet Martens for her seeming indecision and Detective Sergeant Woodcock (aka 'Bolshy Bill') should have been smacked down and brought into line. These are minor quibbles though with a cast of characters which ranges from Charity Nyambura, the black athlete through to the upper class old boys of the Zeal School.

I sat down and read the book through in one sitting on one of those bitterly cold afternoons when it's folly to be anywhere other than in front of a warm fire. It was perfect for a one sitting book with plenty of twists and turns. Even if it didn't keep me on the edge of my seat it did allow me to snuggle into the corner of the sofa for a few hours.

My thanks to the publishers, Allison and Busby, for sending this book.

If you enjoy this type of book then you might also like Ian Rankin's The Naming of the Dead which looks at a murder investigation set against a background of protests and terrorist attacks.

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