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Keating, H R F - 'One Man and His Bomb'
Paperback: 288 pages (Apr. 2007) Publisher: Allison & Busby ISBN: 0749081686

Detective Superintendent Harriet Martens is at home with her husband when a loud clap of thunder makes her jump. She comments that she sometimes feels a sense of foreboding at the sound. Minutes later the phone rings. Harriet's twin sons, both serving police officers, have been caught in a bomb blast. One is dead and the other is lying in a coma. Harriet and her husband race to the surviving son's bedside.

The very next day Harriet is called into the office by her boss. Assistant Chief Constable Brown feels the best medicine for Harriet's grief is work. A nearby research laboratory has been working on a new herbicide which is far more potent than they expected. Someone has broken in and stolen the one existing vial of this lethal stuff. The fear is that terrorists have it and will replicate it, thereby threatening the country. All this is very hush hush of course. The powers that be can't afford the media getting hold of this story. To ensure security, Harriet is to work alone to try and track down the thief and find the herbicide. She is to tell no one.

I had a number of problems with ONE MAN AND HIS BOMB. The first was the idea that a police officer, grieving over the loss of one son and the potential death of a second, would be assigned such a difficult and delicate case while still trying to coming to terms with her loss. The other is that she is working entirely alone on a matter so important.

During her investigation Harriet seems to take what she is told at face value. She makes little or no effort to follow up on information to check its veracity. I could accept that if the protagonist was an amateur sleuth but in a high-ranking police officer, it seemed totally out of place.

There are also two Harriets. Harriet Martens, professional police officer and Harriet Piddock, the grieving mother. Harriet, the mother refers to the working police officer as Hologram Harriet. From time to time she pauses during her work to grieve. This seemed to be a little contrived and didn't really convey any great sense of sorrow to the reader.

ONE MAN AND HIS BOMB is the sixth Harriet Martens book and perhaps I have missed something in not reading the earlier ones. I found ONE MAN AND HIS BOMB lacklustre. To someone who has read a lot of police procedurals the sometimes very basic lapses were annoying and frustrating.

H R F Keating is best known for his Inspector Ghote series. ONE MAN AND HIS BOMB was a very disappointing re-introduction to this author.

Sunnie Gill, Australia
September 2007

last updated 1/09/2007 21:47