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River of Darkness by Rennie Airth

River of Darkness (1999)

by Rennie Airth

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: John Madden (1)

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9693513,495 (3.93)1 / 80



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English (30)  Swedish (2)  Spanish (1)  Dutch (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (35)
Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
I really enjoyed this book. It was set in the years shortly following World War I in a small town atmosphere a bit south of London, England. Would have given it 5 stars but there was more detail and a slower pace than I like. However, the suspense was great, especially as we learned more about the killer and his background, his horrific upbringing and war experiences. He seemed to be a machine with no human feeling, thus becoming a cold hearted killer from a young age, one with suppressed sexual urges that had no normal outlet, except via murder. This mindset made him a war hero as he seemed to have no fear of death, perhaps even a death wish. In the murder story, he keeps eluding capture with a suspenseful twist at the end. The main detective, John Madden seemed a bit wooden at first but this turned out to be due to his war time trauma and it was interesting to see him develop as the story progressed. Already bought the second in the series. ( )
  MitchMcCrimmon | Apr 27, 2018 |
Great story, well plotted, lots of suspense and well developed characters. Setting out to read the next one right away ! ( )
  bennian | Jan 19, 2018 |
After losing his wife and child to influenza, Inspector John Madden joined the service and lived through the horrors of WWI. He's now resumed his job with Scotland Yard and is sent to investigate the murder of an entire family in Surrey. There are items missing from the home, so it is initially judged as a robbery gone wrong, but John quickly sees through the surface and realizes the intent of the intruder was murder from the beginning. When he discovers the injuries were caused by a bayonet, they realize they may be seeking a former soldier. While investigating, the gloomy Madden meets Dr. Helen Blackwell and the two form an instant bond.

I enjoyed reading about the time period, and the procedures used to narrow suspects were brilliant. Through much of the book the main character John Madden was gloomy and depressed. Other than the fact of his being haunted by the war, not much effort was made in the way of character development. I will have to read the next book to see if this is corrected. The character of Helen Blackwell, while perfectly nice, was a bit too modern for my taste. She's definitely not a woman of her time. I enjoyed reading about Billy Styles, the young cop eager to prove himself who is recruited as Madden's assistant. Overall there is a lot to recommend this book, with only a few minor problems. ( )
1 vote dorie.craig | Jun 22, 2017 |
This book was recommended to me, and it was a wise choice. I loved the main characters, John Madden and Helen Blackwell, as well as the minor characters. The murder suspect was fascinating and complex, as was the hunt for him. (We learn relatively early who the murderer is, but not the why or how to find him.) The backdrop of surviving World War I was appropriately ever present. Once I really got started (yesterday), I had to read and listen to it whenever possible. ( )
  Connie-D | Aug 14, 2016 |
I'm enjoyed the story, but I could do with a lot less of red faces of embarrassment. ( )
  delta61 | May 13, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rennie Airthprimary authorall editionscalculated
Lew, BettyDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Reyes, Jesse MarinoffCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I'm back again from hell / With loathsome thoughts to sell; / Secrets of death to tell; / And horrors from the abyss. -- Siegfried Sassoon, "To The War-Mongers"
Part One:  "What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?" — Wilfred Owen, "Anthem for Doomed Youth"
Part Two: "But now hell's gates are an old tale; / Remote the anguish seems; / The guns are muffled and far away, / Dreams within Dreams.

"And far and far are Flanders mud, / And the pain of Picardy; / And the blood that runs there runs beyond / The wide waste sea."

— Rose Macaulay,  "Picnic July 1917"
Part Three: "O Love, be fed with apples while you may, / And feel the sun and go in royal array, / A smiling innocent on the heavenly causeway,

"Though in what listening horror for the cry / That soars in outer blackness dismally, / The dumb blind beast, the paranoiac fury ..."

— Robert Graves, "Sick Love"
Part Four: "It may be he shall take my hand / And lead me into his dark land / And close my eyes and quench my breath ...

"I have a rendezvous with death..."
— Alan Seeger, "Rendezvous"
To the memory of my mother and my father
First words
The village was empty.
Last words
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0143035703, Paperback)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:34 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Inspector John Madden of Scotland Yard investigates the murder of a family in the post-World War I British countryside. A veteran of the war, Madden immediately recognizes the work of a soldier, but discovering the motive will take longer. First in a series.… (more)

» see all 4 descriptions

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Average: (3.93)
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2 6
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