H.R.F. Keating

Macmillan £17.99

Reviewed by Mary Clarke

Detective Superintendent Harriet Martens has been appointed by the Inspector of Constabulary to investigate possible corruption in the Maximum Crime Squad, known as the Max, a team of hand-picked police officers dealing exclusively with major crimes. Summoned to London from her home force of Birchester, Harriet's arrival is resented not only by the officers of the Max but by the reporter and chairman of the Sunday Herald which broke the story.
Although two detective constables have been suspended for demanding money from a small time criminal, the newspaper suggested a wider scandal. Harriet's brief is to discover just how wide, aided by her team of officers from the Greater Birchester Police. Keating does a good job of portraying the team's specific individual talents although little information is given about their personalities. Their function seems to be as tools to do a job. Contrarily, the personality of Commander Boxall, Head of the Max, makes itself felt through his patronising manner towards Harriet and the obstacles he throws in her way.
Keating is not afraid to portray Harriet's failings as well as her virtues. A strong character, her frustration and discouragement come through as much as her determination to solve the case. She is understandably irked on overhearing herself welcomed as a "dozy northern tart" but continues to dwell on it, with even her friend Rekha saying she goes on about it quite enough. Harriet's thought processes do go into a little too much detail as she tosses around ideas about the case. The first person narrative style used for them can be a little confusing combined with the third person approach to the novel as a whole. However, the plot is sound and the investigation methodical with some good atmosphere and moments of tension.