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RIVER OF DARKNESS
By Rennie Airth
Penguin, 2005, c1999. paperback. ($14)
Reviewed by Shirley H. Wetzel
"A novel of suspense in the shadow of World War I"
England is slowly emerging from the horrors of the Great War, and Scotland Yard Inspector John Madden is still dealing with his own war experiences and the death of his wife and young daughter. Madden is sent to investigate the savage murder of a family in the peaceful Surrey village of Highfield. Local authorities want to write off the crime as a robbery gone bad, but Madden thinks otherwise. When similar crimes come to light, he realizes he is dealing with a demented but extremely clever killer who has a definite agenda. Madden, assisted by the village doctor, Helen Blackwell, uses the newly developing tools of criminal psychology to hunt down the villain before he can strike again. Dr. Blackwell also helps Madden to recover some of the joy of living, much to his amazement and to the amusement, and relief, of his co-workers.
Madden and his colleagues, through dogged detective work unaided by any of the modern tools like DNA and FBI profiling, identify the probable killer, but can they track him down before he strikes again, even closer to home?
This is Airth's first novel, which was nominated, deservedly, for several major awards. There have been a number of recent mysteries set during or just after the Great War (which wasn't called World War I until the next war came along), including Anne Perry's and Jacqueline Winspear's series. Each uses the war and its aftereffects in similar ways to add depth to the characters and stories set in this time. RIVER OF DARKNESS is a must read for those who have an interest in that historical period, as well as those who appreciate well-written suspense in general.
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