Short story collection honoured the creator of Inspector Ghote

Remembering crime writer H R F Keating on the 95th anniversary of his birth

The Verdict of Us All is a collection of stories by some of the top crime novelists
The Verdict of Us All is a collection of
stories by some of the top crime novelists
The prolific crime writer, critic and expert on detective fiction, H R F Keating, was honoured on his 80th birthday by fellow members of the Detection Club with an anthology of short stories, The Verdict of Us All.

H R F Keating, known as Harry to his friends and family, had been president of the prestigious Detection Club for 17 years and was regarded as a respected elder statesman of the genre, having written 65 books, the majority of them crime fiction.

The contributors to the anthology included the writers, Len Deighton, Reginald Hill, Colin Dexter, P D James, Simon Brett and Liza Cody, all leading lights of contemporary  crime fiction in the early part of this century.

Henry Reymond Fitzwalter (Harry) Keating had been born in the early part of the last century, on Halloween, (31 October) 1926, 95 years ago today, in St Leonards-on-Sea, Sussex. He was to become legendary for writing a series of novels featuring Inspector Ghote of the Bombay CID, despite never having set foot in India when he wrote many of them.

He worked as a journalist for the Daily Telegraph and was also crime books reviewer for The Times for 15 years. His first novel, Death and the Visiting Firemen, was published in 1959 and his first Inspector Ghote mystery, The Perfect Murder, was published in 1966.

Keating was a chairman of the Crime Writers’ Association and the Society of Authors and a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. In 1995, he was awarded the Cartier Diamond Dagger by the CWA for outstanding services to crime literature.

Keating was much respected by his fellow writers
Keating was much respected
by his fellow writers
He wrote a biography of Agatha Christie -  Agatha Christie: First Lady of Crime and a book about Sherlock Holmes - Sherlock Holmes, the Man and his World.

His 1986 book, Writing Crime Fiction, was based on his analysis of the development of the genre from the 1920s to the 1980s.

Keating married the actor Sheila Mitchell and they had four children and nine grandchildren. It was Sheila who chose one of Keating’s many short stories to round off the anthology, The Verdict of Us All.

She introduces the short story, Arkady Nicolaivic, which was written by Keating in 1992. She writes: ‘It gives us a glimpse of a very young Ghote,  possibly at his most naïve and, as usual, beset by problems. To some who know him, Harry has an outgoing and relaxed personality, but to those who know him best there are many parallels between the writer and his character…’

To any Inspector Ghote fan who has not yet read this short story, the charming glimpse into the past of the detective will be a real treat. It tells the story of a young Ghote being sent on an official trip to Russia and, after falling for a pretty young Russian girl, delivering himself into the hands of the KGB.

The Verdict of Us All was published in 2006 by Allison Busby.

H R F Keating's books are available from or  



The many talents of C H B Kitchin

Barrister turned crime writer offered readers a snapshot of 1920s life

C H B Kitchin's skill as a writer was only one of many talents
C H B Kitchin, whose skill as a writer
was only one of many talents
Many people enjoy Golden Age crime stories because, along with a good mystery, they give the reader glimpses of what life was like in the early part of the last century.

Experts agree that one writer with a particular talent for evoking the era in which his stories were set is C H B Kitchin, a barrister who became wealthy from playing the stock market, and also tried his hand at detective fiction.

Born in October 1895, Clifford Henry Benn Kitchin was the son of a barrister who, after an Oxford education, became a barrister himself.

As well as being a gifted chess and bridge player and a pianist, Kitchin wrote poetry, general fiction and four highly-regarded crime novels featuring the stockbroker turned amateur sleuth, Malcolm Warren.

His first crime novel, Death of My Aunt, published in 1929, has been reprinted frequently and translated into several foreign languages. It was republished by Faber Finds in 2009, 80 years after its first appearance.

The novel introduces the young stockbroker, Malcolm Warren, who is summoned by telegram to visit his rich, old Aunt Catherine. She has recently shocked the family by marrying a muscular garage owner, who is many years her junior. She wants Warren to look at her investments and he is hopeful of being able to advise her on what to buy and to make a small profit for himself.

He hurries to her bedside, but before he can start discussing her investment book with her, his aunt asks him to pass her a new bottle of tonic that she wants to try. After taking a sip, she leans back and closes her eyes, but suddenly becomes violently ill and dies.

The Faber Finds edition of  Death of My Aunt
The Faber Finds edition of 
Death of My Aunt
Her fortune is divided up in her will to go to various members of her family, who would all be happy for either the young stockbroker, or the new husband, to be accused of her murder.

Therefore, Warren has to launch his own investigation in order to save himself, and his uncle by marriage, who he likes and can’t believe is guilty of the murder.

Kitchin makes his hero, Warren, a fan of detective fiction himself and he mentions that he admires the crime writers Edgar Wallace and Lynn Brock. Warren tries to emulate Lyn Brock’s methods and draws up a table of suspects and motives and allocates each of them points for being the most likely person to have committed the murder.

In a later book, Death of His Uncle, Kitchin, through his hero Warren, says: ‘A good detective story, I have found, is often a clearer mirror of ordinary life than many a novel written specially to portray it. Indeed, I think a test of its goodness is the pleasure you can derive from it even though you know who the murderer is. A historian of the future will probably turn, not to blue books or statistics, but to detective stories, if he wished to study the manners of his age.

In 2021 we can be those historians and enjoy the fascinating domestic details and descriptions of servants, houses, furniture and dinners, which Kitchin, through Warren,  reveals.

The writer H R F Keating writes in his Introduction to the 2009 edition of Death of My Aunt: ‘Kitchin’s knowledge of the crevices of human nature lifts his crime fiction out of the category of puzzledom and into the realm of the detective novel. He was, in short, ahead of his day.’

I would recommend Death of My Aunt to anyone who enjoys reading classic detective stories, as it is a well-written and interesting novel of its time, which provides a satisfying, credible solution to the mystery at the end.

Death of My Aunt is available from or



Grey Mask by Patricia Wentworth

Who came first: Miss Silver or Miss Marple?

Grey Mask, originally published in 1928, was republished 90 years later
Grey Mask, originally published in 1928,
was republished 90 years later
Patricia Wentworth’s first Miss Silver Mystery, Grey Mask, published in 1928, introduces an unassuming little old lady, who is continually knitting baby garments, but is actually a shrewd private detective with a brilliant mind.

Many people have assumed over the years that Miss Silver was inspired by Agatha Christie’s much-loved Miss Marple, but actually it could have been the other way round. The first Miss Marple novel, The Murder at the Vicarage, was not published until 1930, although the endearing character had made her first appearance in a short story published in The Royal Magazine in December 1927.

Whoever came first, the two old ladies might appear to be similar characters, but there are many differences between them. Miss Marple lives in a cottage in a sleepy village but is more worldly wise than she might appear. She has developed  a deep knowledge of human nature and can always refer to a useful village parallel when investigating a case, possessing the ability to pick out a villain because he reminds her of a young man that she once knew who stole from his employer, or a naughty boy who often played tricks on his teachers.

Miss Silver, however, is the real deal, as she walks the mean streets of London and takes on cases in a professional way, pitting her wits against major crime bosses.

In Grey Mask there is little explanation about who Miss Silver is, or why she has set herself up as a private investigator in London in the 1920s, but she appears to be well known in upper class circles and the hero of the story is sent to consult her on the recommendation of a friend.

Charles Moray, an explorer, has returned home after four years abroad, to find  his house unlocked, with a light burning in one of its abandoned rooms. He finds somewhere to hide and eavesdrops on what is going on in the room. A criminal gang are using his house to plot a vicious crime. Furthermore, he recognises the voice of one of the conspirators. It belongs to the woman who jilted him on the eve of his wedding four years earlier.

Patricia Wentworth wrote 32 Miss Silver novels
Patricia Wentworth wrote
32 Miss Silver novels
He cannot go to the police because he does not want his former fiancée to get into trouble, but he has to find a way to prevent the gang from committing the crime they are planning and somehow extricate the woman he used to love from the mess she seems to be in.

His friend urges him to consult Miss Silver and so Charles goes to her office. His first impression of the well-respected private detective is that she is ‘a little person with no features, no complexion, and a great deal of tidy mouse-coloured hair done in a large bun at the back of her head’. He finds that appearances can be deceptive, however, and that Miss Silver is not afraid to tackle a criminal gang who are prepared to resort to violence, kidnapping and shooting people.

Patricia Wentworth was the pen name of Dora Amy Elles, who was born in India, where her father was stationed with the British Army, in 1877. She was sent to England to be educated, but returned to India and married George Dillon in 1906. He had three children from a previous marriage and they had one child together. After his death she moved back to England with the children.

In 1920 she married again, to George Turnbull, and settled in Surrey. She had begun writing while in India and in 1910 had won the Melrose Prize for her first published novel, A Marriage Under the Terror, which was set during the French Revolution.

Under the pen name of Patricia Wentworth, she wrote 32 crime novels featuring Miss Silver, beginning with Grey Mask in 1928 and ending with Girl in the Cellar in 1961, the year of her death. Miss Silver develops as a character during the series and works closely with Scotland Yard. The reader will eventually discover she is a retired governess with a passion for Tennyson as well as for knitting.

Patricia Wentworth also wrote poetry and more than 30 other novels throughout her career.

I would recommend reading Grey Mask, which was republished by Hodder and Stoughton in 2018 and is available again in some public libraries. It is a well-written story told from multi viewpoints and, although it is typical of the sensational crime fiction of its time, such as Agatha Christie’s Tommy and Tuppence novels and Margery Allingham’s Mr Campion books, it has an intriguing mystery at its heart, which is not revealed until the end.

Grey Mask is available from or