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by Rennie Airth
Viking, July 2005
352 pages
ISBN: 0670899968

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Scarcely a prolific author, South African born Rennie Airth has only penned four books since his first full-length publication in 1969. THE BLOOD-DIMMED TIDE is his second excursion into historical crime fiction and provides a sequel to his RIVER OF DARKNESS, the novel in which Inspector John Madden made his debut. This episode is set in 1932. A third outing for Madden is predicted.

John Madden has retired from Scotland Yard, to the relief of his doctor wife Helen. He is now a Surrey farmer intent on making his family life as fulfilling as possible. Nonetheless, when a prepubescent girl in his area goes missing, he helps with the search and locates the raped and horribly mangled corpse.

Madden's reputation, for all he has been absent from the Yard for a number of years, remains intact and former colleagues are anxious to seek his aid in tracking down the killer. It is not long before it becomes evident that the murderer has killed many times before. The reason for the disparate locations of his crimes, some in continental Europe as well as some in England, does not reflect well on people in authority in Britain.

Airth's characters, including Madden himself, have been affected by the Great War, the war to end all wars, yet another conflict is casting its shadow in advance of itself with the coming to power in Germany of the Nazis. In fact, one of the detectives in the novel is German.

The era may, at times, be forgotten as some of the narrative could well be set in today's England. Readers falling into that trap would be brought up short to see references to tramps, lost souls whose lives have changed as a result of the war, men whose former lives have been forfeit to the changes wrought by the conflict. Then, of course, there is the absence of technology to aid the police. One is accustomed to modern thrillers employing advanced forensics as well as the convenience (or otherwise) of mobile phones.

The plot is well constructed with great attention paid to detail. The cast of men active in bringing the murderer to justice is carefully drawn and very human. There are no obvious anachronisms to mar the tale which deserves widespread appreciation.

Reviewed by Denise Pickles, December 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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