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River of Darkness [Paperback]

4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Surpasses Anything Else Published in 1999 May 17 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This Debut is set in 1921 Surrey. When a family and their servants are killed in their home in the Surrey countryside, Detective Inspector John Madden of Scotland Yard is assigned the task of finding the killer(s). The entire country is shocked at the multiple murders, a virtually unknown event at the time. Madden is baffled because he can't find a motive, the murderer left no clues at the scene and the press and his superiors are pressing for a quick arrest. With painstaking attention to every detail, Madden, slowly, but surely, begins to unravel the mystery of who killed the family. As the investigation proceeds, Madden has a sense of urgency because he becomes convinced that the killer(s) will kill again and soon.
This is an excellent read, even for those who don't care for procedurals as being too slow moving, because you'll find yourself staying up late to finish just one more chapter. Madden is a very interesting character - flawed because of his experiences during the Great War - but not so flawed as to be insensitive in either his investigation or his relationship with the other characters in the book. The plot is ever changing with several interesting twists and turns. While the history is present, it is not the main thrust of the story - the solving of the multiple murders before the killer(s) kill again is the story here. There are two engaging minor characters - Constable Billy Styles, assigned to his first murder investigation, and Helen Blackwell, the local doctor who is called in to verify that the family is dead. There is some talk that this is the first in a trilogy featuring these characters. One can only hope this is true.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Scary and refreshingly original April 28 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
A combination of a 1920's British whodunnit and a serial murder psychological thriller? Descriptions of this book sounded too weird to be true, yet this is exactly what 'River of Darkness' is, and it works - brilliantly.
Set in post-war England, an Inspector haunted by his experience in the trenches and helped by a sucession of village bobbies uses forensics and psychological profileing to track a serial killer - decades before any of these terms are even invented.
The suspense builds as the author shows us the thoughts and doings of the victims, police, and killer, in the lead up to each of his awful and inevitable bursts of random and targeted violence.
The victim's wounds point to a highly specialised military background; physical evidence indicates that the murderer watches his carefully-chosed victims for weeks; psychological opinion has it that his sexual release come only from killing. This killer is far scarier than any modern big-city stalker/slasher - not since Red Dragon have I read of such a truly frightening character. This is an excellent and original book - I totally recommend it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Exciting, suspenseful, quite a page turner Nov. 16 2000
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is one exciting novel. I had never read anything by 'Rennie Airth'..so i wasn't quite sure what to expect.
It was more then worth my time. The Author does a great job of keeping the reader guessing, he makes you care about the main character's, and draw's a compelling picture of the times as well as the people. He takes a different approach then most mysteries i've read ( mostly American) by writing about the 'events' and then explaining after what 'caused them'
His main 'Copper' John Madden is nicely drawn, a wounded haunted man, driven to detachment by pain and memories. I liked him right away, and was curious to see what had caused his pain.
The author parallel's the pain of Madden and the main suspect, a man accused of a atrocious murder, a secretive man, a nobody, a vicious serial killer.
The romantic angle is nicely covered, and feels right, contrasting with the uglyness that occurs.
I read somewhere that Mr. Airth is writing a NEW 'Madden' book, i can't wait to read it..
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4.0 out of 5 stars Well Worth Reading. Nov. 6 2000
Format:Mass Market Paperback
River of Darkness, by Rennie Airth goes near the top of my bulging list of whodunnits read this year. The central character is Scotland Yarn Inspector John Madden, who has recently returned to police work after serving on the front during WWI. He is "pulling himself together", and at the same time, identifying and attempting to apprehend a rare criminal type -- the serial mass murderer.
Airth does a first rate job of portraying investigative work in the first part of the 20th century, the beginnings of psychological profiling, and the Scotland Yarn bureaucracy. The novel portrays several officers (city/rural) and inspectors and most get along well with each other. The police procedural featuring the "lone gunman" alienated from his peers is a little tiresome and Airth avoids this tack.
About half-way through the novel the killer is introduced, and the psychological juxtaposition between him, his victims, and particularly Madden makes for a gripping page-turner. Early psychiatric (Freudian) analysis of serial killers and the Yard's distain for what they consider frivolous and unnecessary input is entertaining.
The romantic love-heals-all wounds relationship between Madden and a rural doctor was a reason I gave this novel only 4 stars. Given Maddens prior marriage and his battlefield experiences it didn't ring quite true, but then perhaps Madden is a more resilient type. In any event this is a novel well worth buying and reading. Airth's powers of description are excellent and he tells a great tale.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost perfect
A great read with fine characterization. One problem for foreigners writing about times and places they do not really know is that mistakes happen. Read more
Published 9 days ago by Chris Pascoe
3.0 out of 5 stars Great historical setting with the interwar years as a backdrop to a...
This was my first Rennie Airth novel and it was an engaging read. I enjoyed the author's detailed and crafted writing and plan to pick up another of his books in the near future.
Published 11 months ago by Rickjcross
5.0 out of 5 stars Fast Running River
I happened upon this series by accident. I enjoy historical mysteries and thrillers so the book was a good bet. Read more
Published on July 14 2010 by Dave and Joe
4.0 out of 5 stars Survival takes many forms
The setting for this novel is a post World War I Britain: still reeling from the combined effects of war and the influenza epidemic of 1918. Read more
Published on Sept. 17 2007 by Jennifer Cameron-Smith
3.0 out of 5 stars Ambitious river of tedium
Rennie Airth's "River of Darkness" is an ambitious book. it wants to be a good psychological thriller while also being a good post World War I novel. Well, that fails. Read more
Published on May 26 2004 by Peter LaPrade
2.0 out of 5 stars A major disappointment
I'm sorry to say that I found River of Darkness to be a very disappointing, and totally predictable, thriller. The only mystery to me is how so many people can have enjoyed it. Read more
Published on April 10 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine English Crime Novel
Well-plotted with romantic characters. Set after the First World War in rural England without being stodgy. Would make a great A&E Mystery mini-series.
Published on March 28 2002 by Melissa Alderman
5.0 out of 5 stars River Of Darkness/A Friendly Favorite
I was captivated by John Madden of Scotland Yard, a damaged
veteran of WWI, the sinister killer and most especially Madden's
love interest, Dr. Helen Blackwell. Read more
Published on Sept. 3 2001 by "friendly3220"
5.0 out of 5 stars Not your typical English Mystery
I have been reading mysteries for over 35 years and happened upon this one at Amazon.com through a book list recommendation. Read more
Published on Aug. 17 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Mystery - Well Done
Superb characters, excellent atmosphere, and fine writing highlight this wonderful English mystery. The shadow of WWI hangs heavy over this story of psychological suspense and the... Read more
Published on July 6 2001
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