Saturday, February 17, 2024

The Blood-Dimmed Tide

 The Blood--Dimmed Tide (2004) by Rennie Airth

1932, Britain. Since the dreadful deaths in The River of Darkness, the first of the John Madden books, Madden has retired from the force to become a country farmer--both out of inclination and because his wife was upset at his injuries at the end of the last case. But just as an old hunting dog will stir at the bugle's call, the former police inspector can't resist lending a hand when a young girl goes missing from a village near his home. And when he is the one to discover the battered body he just can't stay away from the investigation. Fortunately, his old team don't mind the help--in fact, they'll take all the help they can get when their one trail goes cold and evidence is found that this isn't the culprit's first killing. And when they find a gap in similar killings in Britain, they wonder if killer took his talents to the continent for a few years. Soon they are working with the German police and the Secret Service to track a murderer who doesn't mind where he kills as long as he can get away with it...

Airth likes his mysteries steeped in psychology--whether it's a damaged soldier from WWI or a psychopathic killer of young girls. Good, solid analysis of the culprit's character--and analysis entirely appropriate to the story's time period. Airth also gives us good, solid police work...tracking down clues, interviewing witnesses, and the rest of the daily procedures that lead to solving a case. And all without boring the reader with detail or slowing the pace. I really enjoyed the introduction of the German police officer Probst and wish we could have seen more of him. Given that the books are heading into WWII territory, I'm doubtful that we'll see him again (unless--since he has expressed his feelings on the Nazis--he decides to leave Germany for England) and that is a shame.

It is a testament to Airth's abilities as a mystery author that I'm ranking this so high. I have great difficulty with stories about children in danger and a serial killer targeting young girls was definitely a hard topic for me. But the writing is terrific and I was very invested in the characters--not just Madden and his wife, but all of them...down to Sam Watkins and his dog Sally and the tramps who helped Madden discover some of the vital clues. ★★★★

First line: Only chance brought the Maddens to Brookham that day.

Last line: And on the dark night that was coming.
Deaths = 10 (four strangled; four natural; one burned to death; one suicide)

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