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by Rennie Airth

Reviewed by Karen Meek

RIVER OF DARKNESS is set in 1921 in an England recovering from the trauma of the Great War. Scotland Yard Inspector John Madden is a survivor of the Front Line, who had lost everything even before the War, his wife and child having died of flu. His colleagues are uncomfortable with his haunted face and distant, troubled eyes but his boss knows him to be a skilled investigator.

Madden is summoned to a manor house in Sussex where a whole family has been massacred. Originally thought to be a burglary by a gang that had gone wrong, Madden soon realises that the murders were planned and carried out by one man in a swift and brutal raid. Evidence, including a dugout in the nearby woods leads Madden to believe the killer is an ex-soldier like himself.

Though the police have a rough description and know that the killer rides a motorcycle they are unable to trace him. Madden knows the killer will strike again, it's just a matter of time. Madden even consults a practitioner of the new science of psychology to get insight into the murderer's thoughts. That coupled with dogged police work slowly brings the man's identity into focus.

RIVER OF DARKNESS has it all; a tense, gripping story, which is told from several point of views including the killer himself, historical ambience with the war and after effects convincingly drawn, details about early psychological thinking and not least the romance between the emotionally bruised inspector and a lady doctor. It is a very well written book which has been widely praised. Definitely a book that lingers in the mind.

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