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on April 9, 2015
I couldn't put this book down. John Madden is a complex character that I have come to like, quirks and all.
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on March 18, 2015
A complex and compelling detective, John Madden is an interesting protagonist in a mystery set in rural England during the rapid social changes post WWI. Very good reading.
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on September 8, 2014
A great read with fine characterization. One problem for foreigners writing about times and places they do not really know is that mistakes happen. English people do not "throw up". They are sick. Ashdown Forest is mainly open heath and has few trees. I doubt if there were many Harleys in England then or now.

Just quibbles.
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on September 29, 2013
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.
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I happened upon this series by accident. I enjoy historical mysteries and thrillers so the book was a good bet. I don't like reviewing plots as I hate having the story given away and won't do that for others. I will tell you that the book is well and smoothly written, a real pleasure to read. The plot is engaging and the mystery continues even after the killer is revealed. I enjoyed the book right to the last page. If you like mysteries, history and a thrill ride - I think you'll like the book. I've already moved on to the next in the series, I came to care for the characters and was please to know that I could meet them again in the pages of the next in the series.
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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.

Highly recommended

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 26, 2004
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 scarred in her own way, and she is also unconviningly forward with Madden. It seems so out of place. The history here is the best part. Airth does get the zeitgeist of 1920s Britain right. His characters, on the other hand, are flat and boring. The killer, who we meet early, is a one-trick pony. That really isn't interesting. Predictable maiden-in-distress as climax, and very predictable ending.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 10, 2003
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. The failings are too many to all go into, so I'll stick to a few. Firstly, there are far too many characters introduced, all of whom are as well rounded as cardboard. The three exceptions are the leads: Madden, the detective, who is still trying to come to terms with the horrors of WW1. But even though the author has gone to the trouble of fleshing out Madden's background, the Detective still comes across as unsympathetic and totally unlikeable.
Of course, there's the mandatory love interest. An attractive doctor who sees more in Madden than anyone else does (including the reader)and they're promptly having sex soon after meeting (one of the worst written and gratuitous scenes ever put to paper). And finally, there's the villain, Angus Pike, who is introduced to us early in the story, just to get rid of any possiblity of a mystery. Pike likes slitting the throats of beautiful women. When he sees one he likes, he stalks them until he gets what he wants. Gee, I wonder what will happen when Pike sees the lovely Doctor? Could he stalk her and then make an attack, only to be stopped by Madden at the last moment? No, that would be far too predictable. Wouldn't it?
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on March 28, 2002
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.
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on September 3, 2001
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. Fine romantic descriptions
of their passion for each other amidst the sinister deceptions
of the villain. Indeed, John Madden was a lucky dog! I'm trying
to locate the author's two earlier works, Snatch, and Once a
Spy.
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