Character Sketch/Analysis of Inspector Ganesh Ghote in The Perfect Murder : ‘The Perfect Murder’ was the first of HRF Keating’s Inspector Ghote mysteries, first published in 1964. It has a kind of gentle charm and has some things in its favour, not least the believable Indian setting when the author had not visited the country in which he chose to set his character at a time when research would have been more difficult than it would today.
H.R.F. Keating’s “The Perfect Murder” is a captivating debut novel that introduces readers to the enigmatic Inspector Ghote and the bustling city of Bombay. While the mystery at the heart of the story keeps you guessing, it’s the fascinating characters that truly bring the book to life.
As Alexander McCall Smith points out in his very brief introduction, Ghote’s quirk is that he doesn’t have a quirk – this is about the only significant observation McCall makes. Ghote is an everyman. Today we are used to investigators having some distinctive character trait – but Ghote just wants to do things by the book and is thwarted by his victims and the system in which he operates. Here he has three “number one priorities” – solving an attack on a secretary of a rich industrialist, looking after a Swedish Unesco representative showing the best of the Indian police force and the theft of one rupee from the minister of the Police.
Inspector Ganesh Ghote is a fictional police officer who is the main character in H. R. F. Keating’s detective novels. Ghote is an inspector in the police force of Bombay (a.k.a. Mumbai), India.
Ghote first appeared in the novel The Perfect Murder (1964), in which his investigation of the apparent murder of the Parsi, Mr Perfect, was assisted informally by the Swedish UNESCO analyst Axel Svensson. The novel, which Keating wrote without ever having been to India, won a Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger Award and was adapted into a film in 1988 by Merchant Ivory.
Suggested Reading :The Perfect Murder as an Example of Popular Fiction
Indeed the monsoons have a cathartic effect as the intriguing mystery is finally decoded by Ghote. It also adds to the humour and brings out the warmth of the characters of Inspector Ghote and Axel Svenssonn, and Ghote’s sweet marital life with wife Protima.
From the get go Keating is good at establishing an interesting setting in a culture which readers can identify with but also find difference in. Set in Bombay, the book also has in the background the legacy of Britain’s rule there and it is interesting to see how different characters refer to this, with some even appropriating attitudes or poses they align with British imperialism in India. For example, one of Varde’s sons explains to Axel why he thinks Ghote should not bother to try and investigate the attack on his father’s secretary, saying :
‘our policeman as he is today may be a good chap and all that, but he’s simply had no experience of how civilised people live. He’d be totally out of his depth in a house like this.’
And interestingly Ghote notices this appropriation of language by telling him to not ‘be more English than the English.’ Ghote is definitely a character you quickly sympathise with as both his superiors and his witnesses often use their status, position and wealth to dominate and bully him. On the whole this was an okay mystery and an easy read, but I think what let things down for me was that there needed to be more tangible clues and readers felt that Ghote’s lightning bolts of inspiration in solving his cases were a bit rushed and clumsily done.
The hero, Inspector Ghote, is an attractive character, warm-hearted and honourable, trying to do the right thing by his job and his family in a system filled with corruption and incompetence. Unfortunately, the rest of the characters too often seemed like caricatures, and unlikeable ones at that. Everyone is portrayed as either foolish, incompetent, lying or corrupt – and that’s just the police! And then poor Ghote has to go home to his deeply awful wife. He seems to love her – can’t think why!
Ghote is a very charming man. However he does not have any extra such powers as a detective. He is like everyday common man who tries to look into the heart of every situation by his own. And Ghote wants to do things by the book as opposed to the system in which he operates.
The seemingly perfect murder of the wealthy and philanthropic Mrs. Gupta sets the stage for the entire mystery. Her death leaves behind numerous suspects and motives, each with their own story to tell. As Ghote delves deeper into the case, Mrs. Gupta’s life and personality gradually come to light, adding depth and complexity to the narrative. Svensson, a Swedish UNESCO official visiting Bombay to study police methods, provides a contrasting perspective to Ghote. He is enthusiastic and inquisitive, often surprised by the cultural nuances of Indian society. His naivety and occasional blunders add humor to the story, while his fresh perspective helps Ghote see things from a different angle.
Ghote’s loyal and resourceful constable, Raju, provides invaluable assistance throughout the investigation. He is street-smart and resourceful, utilizing his local knowledge and connections to help Ghote navigate the bustling streets of Bombay. Raju’s humor and loyalty make him a beloved character, and his presence adds a human touch to the often-grim world of crime solving.