Inspector Ghote's First Case - Plot Summary

Plot Summary

It's the early 1960s and Inspector Ghote is on leave from the Bombay police before taking up a post in crime branch. His wife, Protima, is heavily pregnant with their first child. The former police commissioner, now retired, Sir Rustom Engineer requests that as a favour Ghote investigate the motiveless suicide of Iris Dawkins. Mr Robert Dawkins is an old friend of Sir Rustom's from before Indian independence and has written a letter asking for help.

Ghote arrives at the remote town where the tragedy occurred and finds that Iris Dawkins apparently committed suicide by shooting herself in the head with a shotgun without leaving a note. Afterwards the Dawkin's man servant telephoned Mr Dawkins at the nearby golf club and asked him to return home as there had been a "nasty accident".

At the local police station Ghote finds a rival from police training college, Inspector Darrani, has already investigated the case and has a closed mind on the subject.

Ghote gets the name of an old friend of Mrs Dawkins from an old letter: Pansy, who married a Forest Officer named Peter Watson. Forest Officers move from one place to another every few months, however, and Ghote has to use his initiative to find her.

Shinto, the young boy who takes care of the Dawkin's garden, tells Ghote that a young man apparently visited Mrs Dawkins on the morning of her suicide. From the same boy Ghote learns that the gun was in the wrong position for a left-handed person to have committed suicide with.

From Pansy Watson Ghote learns that Iris Dawkins was the daughter of Sir Ronald and Lady Mountford. Sir Ronald was an ICS Advisor to a Maharaja before independence. Her parents were killed by a rampaging elephant while touring a remote area when Iris was a child. Iris stayed in India with the family of the British Resident until roughly the age of twelve or thirteen, when she was seduced by the son of a Maharaja (who was the same age) and became pregnant. She was then sent to stay with the nuns at St Agnes Convent in Poona until her child was delivered and then the child, a boy, was sent to the Raja's palace. Iris Dawkins was then sent home to England where she was cared for by poor relations of her own family and adopted their name, Petersham.

When she came of age Iris Petersham found a job in London and saved up until she could return to India after independence. She then came to stay with the Watsons until she met Robert Dawkins, who was a friend of Peter Watson, and married him.

Ghote learns that Iris Dawkins was left-handed and that her left eye had a green fleck from a picture taken by a local photographer. The fact that she was left-handed is relevant to the position of the shotgun she supposedly committed suicide with. The fact that her eyes, described by her husband as "violet", were in fact blue with a fleck of green shows Ghote that her husband, Robert Dawkins, held many cherished illusions about his wife.

When Ghote reports his findings to Mr Dawkins Inspector Darrani intervenes and persuades Mr Dawkins to put the matter behind him. Afterwards Ghote resolves to ask Inspector Darrani about the young man who was seen visiting Mrs Dawkins on the morning of her death. Ghote also realises, belatedly, that the phrase "a nasty accident" was specifically used in the telephone message that alerted Mr Dawkins to his wife's death and that such a phrase is more typical of a man like Mr Dawkins than the manservant who would have made the call.

Investigating at the golf club, Ghote learns that at the relevant time of day the club is nearly empty and that Mr Dawkins may have been the only person present. His alibi is therefore unsound.

Interviewing Shinto the gardener boy at the boy's home he learns that the Dawkins' manservant has threatened the boy to make him keep silent. Ghote decides to return to the Dawkins residence and interview the manservant about the morning of Mrs Dawkins' death.

After interviewing the manservant, Ghote realises that the man must be blackmailing his employer, Robert Dawkins, and re-assesses what he knows about Mr Dawkin's character.

Carefully considering the case, Ghote comes to the conclusion that the young man who visited Mrs Dawkins was in fact her long lost son who she would have immediately recognised from the green flecks in one eye, a genetic trait inherited from her. Robert Dawkins returned home from the club unexpectedly having forgotten his spectacles and found them embracing. Misunderstanding the situation, Robert Dawkins fetched the shotgun from his gun cabinet and killed Iris Dawkins, her son having already escaped at her urging.

The Dawkins' manservant then moved the body out of the room where the crime had taken place into the living room, while Dawkins himself returned to the club. The club being nearly deserted at that hour, no one had noticed his absence and it was there the message, phrased using words he had given to the manservant, was delivered to him.

Before Ghote can act on his conclusions, an urgent message comes for him telling him is wife, Protima, is about to give premature birth. Ghote hurries back to his wife only to discover the message is a hoax by his wife, who has been missing him. Ghote forgives his wife and after an hour, returns to the scene of the crime.

Ghote conducts another search of the Dawkins home and re-enacts the crime in an effort to prove his theory. He challenges the manservant with the knowledge that Iris Dawkins was killed in the sewing room, not the living room. The manservant confirms this and explains he was looking for a fragment of a letter written by the Maharaja to Mrs Iris Dawkins, which her son had dropped before fleeing the scene. The manservant also confirms that Inspector Darrani had quickly discovered that Iris Dawkins long lost son had visited her. The young man is now the surviving heir to the Maharaja, who has been searching for him. In hope of securing a large reward from the Maharaja, Inspector Darrani has concealed the young man's whereabouts and attempted close the books on Mrs Dawkins death quickly, with the minimum of investigation.

Ghote telephones Inspector Darrani and forces him to come to the house to arrest the manservant as an accessory after the fact. Robert Dawkins overhears Inspector Ghote put his case to Inspector Darrani and, after fetching the shotgun, commits suicide in the room where his wife died.

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