5.0 out of 5 stars Surpasses Anything Else Published in 1999
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...
Published on May 17 2001 by P. Bigelow
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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. The psychology is sound, as the hero, John Madden, learns of what could be driving the killer. Madden is a haunted widower who is also scarred mentally from war. His love interest is also...
Published on May 26 2004 by Peter LaPrade
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5.0 out of 5 stars Surpasses Anything Else Published in 1999,
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.
4.0 out of 5 stars Scary and refreshingly original,
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.
4.0 out of 5 stars Exciting, suspenseful, quite a page turner,
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..
4.0 out of 5 stars Well Worth Reading.,
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.
4.0 out of 5 stars Shell shocked,
Rennie Airth first novel River of Darkness is set in post WWI England. A time and place which in many ways parallels post Viet Nam America. A rapidly changing society that the veterans of war have to come to terms with, while battling their own personal ghosts of war.
Airth does well in describing some of these changes and personal battles.
As other people have mentioned this book also bears striking resemblance to Charles Todd's Inspector Ian Rutledge books. I fould Airth's John Madden to be less tormented and closer to salvation than Ian Rutledge. I prefer Todd's books because they are less openly romantic than Airth's River of Darkness. Although I understand how some might prefer River of Darkness for its romanticism in bleak circumstances
River of Darkness is a very interesting study of a psychotic killer although very Freudian in perspective. This of course fits naturally with the time and place.
I would highly recommend this book to a reader of historical mysteries.
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow! A new, intelligent mystery.,
This was one of those accidental finds. Rennie Airth better be working on his next mystery with Madden as the protagonist, or I will be extremely disappointed. This book was definitely a work of art and of love. I am very curious to know about the member of Airth's family that he modeled Madden after. As always the British and now the South Africans write with class and intelligence, and it is nice to see a new detective in the manner of P. D. James' Adam Dagliesh. Like other readers I can easily see this being made into a movie or one of the Mystery series on PBS. The plot of this book is plausible, the characters are very well-drawn out, the involvement of World War I in shaping the minds and lives of those who live in England after the war understandable and obviously well-researched. This is probably the best new mystery and author I have read for at least two years. I hope to see more of him in the future. Karen Sadler, Science Education, University of Pittsburgh
5.0 out of 5 stars Not your typical English Mystery,
By A Customer
I have been reading mysteries for over 35 years and happened upon this one at Amazon.com through a book list recommendation. After finishing this book I'm looking for anything else this author has written. I want to know more about Inspector Madden's past, present and future. His setting in post WWI England is a window to a time not so long ago but forgotten in this techno-world we live in today. While I am quite comfortable living in today, I am curious about this period of time and the attitudes of a people who survived being bombed in two major wars. One has to respect the courage of a people who picked up their lives and "got on with it". So you're getting more than an English whodoneit...but you won't be disappointed in the mystery either. There is more than the usual graphic detail but in order to be truly appalled and terrified by the mind of the killer, you need to look through Madden's eyes and see the horror of a man turned monster.
4.0 out of 5 stars Worthy of all the acclaim,
River of Darkness was either a winner or a nominee for six mystery awards - Edgar, Anthony, Dilys, Peters, Barry and McCavity. It deserves all of that recognition. Why? Because Airth has managed to combine some of the best of the classic British mystery (the aura of Dame Agatha lurks) with some of the most interesting aspects of newer detective fiction - psychology and post war trauma.
I'm looking forward to the promised sequel -- as the characters have lots of room for growth. It's also a great time period for exploration.
Least you think this is a cozy, please be aware that in Pike, Airth has created a portrait of evil that will make you sure that your doors are locked and you're on your guard.
Bottom line -- a very good read for fans of historical mysteries (Caleb Carr, Anne Perry)or British police procedurals.
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book,but...,
By A Customer
I really liked this book & especially liked the relationship between Madden & Styles. But was disappointed with the role of Dr. Blackwell. On the back of the book, it says "With the help of Dr. Helen Blackwell, who introduces him to the latest developments in criminal psycology, Madden sets out to identify & capture the killer." What? All Dr. Blackwell did was introduce him back to sex. Dr. Weiss, I believe was the one to introduce the psycological information. How disappointing. The story was good, but I was looking forward to Madden & Dr. Blackwell making discoveries together, as the book suggested. I guess I was hoping it would be similar to "The Alienest" by Caleb Carr. Very good book - if you liked this one, you will like that.
4.0 out of 5 stars Survival takes many forms,
This review is from: River of Darkness (Paperback)
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.
A local family in Surrey has been massacred in what appears to be a robbery gone wrong. Enter Inspector John Madden, a veteran of the trenches, who has lost his wife and young daughter to in the influenza epidemic.
This is Rennie Airth's debut novel, and provides an insight into the emotional after effects of war and personal loss together with an exploration of then contemporary psychiatric theory to try to understand, explain and predict the killer's behaviour.
Well developed characters and tight plotting make this an enjoyable, albeit suspenseful, read.
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River Of Darkness by Rennie Airth (Audio CD - May 5 2006)
Used & New from: CDN$ 80.37