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H.R.F. Keating (b.1926), known to his friends as Harry, is best known for his novels featuring the Bombay detective Ganesh Ghote. The very first of this series, The Perfect Murder (1964), which won an Edgar Award as that year’s best first novel, included an impossible crime involving the disappearance of a one-rupee note, though Go West, Inspector Ghote (1981), set in Los Angeles, involves a much more gory impossible death. Keating is also a well-read student of crime fiction and has written several reference books about the genre, such asThe Bedside Companion to Crime (1989), and he knows his way around the impossible crime field. His books and stories have an irrepressible sense of humour, which is much evident in the following story, which I’d classify as a “locked-tent” mystery!
The Deputy Commissioner looked at Inspector Ghote standing at alert attention in front of his wide semi-circular desk with its piles of papers, each held down under the breeze of the overhead fan by a round silvery paperweight bearing his initials.
“You’re a man who admires our Indian classical music, Ghote?” he said.
Ghote experienced a washing-over wave of absolute puzzlement.
“No, sir, no, not at all,” he answered with the truth almost before he had gathered himself together.
The Deputy Commissioner continued to look at him, blank-faced.
“You are a first-class connoisseur of same, isn’t it?” he asked again, each word heavy with meaning.
And now Ghote ceased to be puzzled.
“Yes, sir, yes,” he replied. “Yes, I am.”
“Good man. Right, I am sending you to the Annual Festival of the Indian Music Society this evening, out at Chembur. Just keep an eye on things, yes?”
“Sir, what sort of things it is?”
The Deputy Commissioner frowned.
“Just go there, Ghote, and- And – And keep your eyes open.”
Should I leave now, Ghote asked himself. Should I just only click heels to Deputy Commissioner sahib, turn smartly and march from his cabin?
But, he thought then, if I am going out to this festival and fail to see whatever I am meant to be keeping my eye on, then that will be worse than seeming not to understand here and now.
“Sir,” he said, “can you be telling anything more?”
The Deputy Commissioner brought his lips hard together in a puff of barely suppressed fury.
“Very well, very well,” he snapped. “So, listen. It has just come to my attention – never mind how – that Gulshan Singh, our damned Number One ganglord, believes something which the police should take note of will happen out at the festival this evening.”