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A Detective at Death’s Door
by H.R.F. Keating

Category: Fiction / Mystery
0 pages; ISBN: 0312342063

Rating: 8/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Harriet Klausner


A Detective at Death’s Door
H.R.F. Keating
Dunne, May 2005, $23.95
ISBN: 0312342063

Detective Superintendent Harriet Martens was sunbathing sipping a drink while her husband John Piddock was relaxing nearby when she suddenly turned icy cold and her tongue tingled before she collapsed. John, an avid Christie fan, recognized the symptoms as aconite poisoning, having just read that scenario in an Agatha tale. He reacts quickly and when Harriet next awakens she is in a hospital room, the first victim of the Birchester Poisoner. Others did not have a Christie expert nearby and died.

Harriet is on sick leave recovering from her ordeal, but still tries to help Detective Superintendent Pat Murphy solve the case before more die. When the Birchester Poisoner expands his or her area of operation to London, the National Crime Squad (NCS) takes charge of the case. Though no longer welcomed, Harriet develops a profile from what knows and a letter the Birchester Poisoner sent to the media demanding one million pounds. While the NCS ignores her, Harriet, over the objections of a concerned John, conducts her own investigation.

A DETECTIVE AT DEATH’S DOOR is a solid entry in the Martens British police procedural series but the focus is more on the health problems and related doubts of ever being the HARD DETECTIVE again rather than the investigation. The audience feels for the slowly recovering Harriet who must “flow” every step in normally taken for granted simple tasks that takes time away from the NCS official inquiries and the ailing sleuth’s solo investigation. This also leads to questioning how Harriet could do any complex police work like profiling. Her disabling health problems make her more human, but less likely to solve the case so that readers wonder who will.

Harriet Klausner


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