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Saturday, July 17, 2004

River of Darkness by Rennie Airth

The effect of WW I on the survivors continues to provide a reservoir of themes for authors of English detective novels. Charles Todd's (actually a mother-son team) Ian Rutledge, a Scottish detective is one example. Rutledge suffers from guilt-ridden hallucinations.

Airth's Inspector John Madden is even gloomier having lost his wife and daughter to the great flu epidemic. Madden is the lead investigator in a series of horrific crimes. In what appears to be an attempted robbery, an entire family has been massacred. Madden, following a search of nearby woods, discovers evidence that the family's home had been under observation for a period of time from a dugout that bore unsettling similarities to battlefield trench observation posts. Further evidence leads the police to suspect the work is just one man, a former soldier who kills his victims with a bayonet in the manner taught for use on the battlefield.

We experience some of the action through Pike, the killer's point of view, and realize that facing the memories of war and dealing with those traumas often takes a variety of mechanisms as Pike and Madden are contrasted. I hope this is the beginning of a series featuring Inspector Madden.
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