I may have mentioned Rennie Airth before, but I think he deserves a post all to himself. I have recently read with great enjoyment the last in his John Madden trilogy, THE DEAD OF WINTER. He is one of those writers whose novels I buy as soon as they go into paperback. The first and, I still think, the best is RIVER OF DARKNESS. It did very well, was short-listed for a fistful of awards and won the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière. It is set in the 1920s. Detective Inspector John Madden arrives in a Surrey village to investigate the savage murder of an entire household. Only a traumatised five year child, who hide under a bed, has escaped. So begins the hunt for a serial killer of exceptional cunning and ruthlessness. Madden has his personal demons, too: he is shell-shocked from his time in the trenches, and has never recovered from the deaths from influenza of his wife and baby daughter. It’s an intensely exciting thriller, but there is also a humanity and a thoughtfulness about it that makes it a memorable as well as a compelling read. And it has one of the most heart-stopping endings I have ever read.
Madden leaves the force at the end of RIVER OF DARKNESS to become a farmer, but in THE BLOOD-DIMMED TIDE and THE DEAD OF WINTER Airth finds ways to bring him back into play. THE DEAD OF WINTER is set towards the end of World War II and Madden becomes involved when the young Polish woman who works on his farm is murdered in the London blackout. The evocation of war-time London is pitch perfect. Although it doesn’t quite reach the heights of RIVER OF DARKNESS, this is still an engrossing read and I’ll be sorry if this really the last in the series.