River of Darkness: A Novel of Suspense

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9780670885954: River of Darkness: A Novel of Suspense

In the tradition of The Alienist, a chilling thriller of murder and psychological detection.

In rural England, in a landscape shadowed by the sorrow of World War I, the peace of a small Surrey village is shattered by a murderous attack, which leaves five butchered bodies and no motive for the killings. Sent by Scotland Yard to investigate is Inspector John Madden, a grave and good man who bears the emotional and physical scars from his own harrowing war experiences and from the tragic loss of his wife and child. The local police dismiss the slaughter as a robbery gone tragically awry, but Madden and his chief inspector detect the work of a madman.

With the help of a beautiful doctor who introduces Madden to the latest developments in forensic psychology and who opens his heart again to the possibility of love, Madden sets out to identify and capture the killer--a demented former soldier with a bloody past--even as he sets his sights on his next innocent victims.

As darkly stylish as the best of P. D. James, rippled with tension and resonant with historical atmosphere, River of Darkness marks the debut of a powerful new voice in suspense writing and of a compelling character whom readers will long to know better.

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Review:

The main protagonist of River of Darkness is a Scotland Yard detective so damaged by his experiences during the First World War that his superiors worry about his ability to do his job. This may sound like Charles Todd's excellent series about Ian Rutledge, a shell-shocked cop from the same era. But Rennie Airth, a South African journalist who lives in Italy, has made his hero--Inspector John Madden--a somewhat different version of one of England's walking wounded. Madden is both gloomier (he lost his wife and young daughter to an influenza epidemic) and more pragmatic than the poetic, indecisive Rutledge.

Madden is sent to a town in Surrey where a local family has been massacred in what looks like a robbery gone wrong. He finds enough echoes of his recent battlefield experiences to conclude that the killer was just one man--most likely a former soldier using a bayonet. As for motive, it could well be perverse sexual passion, that "river of darkness" to which a psychologist introduces him. We meet the killer early on, watch him as he maintains a rigid control over every aspect of his life, then stare in horror as he periodically explodes into mad violence. Unlike Madden, this man has not been severely damaged or changed by the war; he has simply used it to channel and redirect his dark river. Airth's point--that survival comes in many shapes and sizes--gives a solid foundation to an impressive leap of imagination. --Dick Adler

About the Author:

Rennie Airth was born in South Africa and worked as a foreign correspondent for Reuters before becoming a novelist. He is the author of two other John Madden mysteries, River of Darkness, a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Novel and a Macavity Award for Best Mystery, and a New York Times Notable Book, and The Blood-Dimmed Tide. He lives in Cortona, Italy.

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