River of Darkness by Rennie Airth (Paperback)
River of Darkness by Rennie Airth (Paperback)—
In a quiet English countryside where people are still recuperating from World War I, a horrifying murder shatters the peace of a small Surrey village. Five victims; four of them killed with military efficiency and, judging from the wounds, a military bayonet. The fifth victim, the lady of the house, is found nearly naked, her throat slashed with a razor. Even more startling than the actual carnage are two subsequent findings: the lack of any sort of sexual assault and the discovery of a child—a young girl hiding beneath a bed.
Scotland Yard sends out Inspector John Madden to investigate the murders. Madden, with some heavy psychological baggage of his own, recognizes the mark of madness in the killer’s work and has a unique understanding of the killer’s methods. While the local constabulary figures the murders for a robbery gone horribly wrong, Madden is quick to recognize the presence of a more sinister motive. He seeks the help of Dr. Helen Blackwell, a local physician who lost both her brothers and her husband to the war. Dr. Blackwell’s professional connections include a psychiatrist who is well versed in the relatively new field of forensic psychology, and together they try to develop a psychological profile for the killer.
Madden discovers the killer has struck once before, a murder that was left unsolved. When Madden looks for similar crimes, he finds one, and a clearer picture of the killer begins to evolve. As the police investigation proceeds, the killer plans his next attack. Together, killer and cops move along parallel timelines. When the string finally breaks, it culminates in a vivid and terrifying climax that demonstrates how fine a line often exists between sanity and utter madness.
River of Darkness is the first book in the John Madden series. Upon its original publication, River of Darkness awed readers who look for intelligent, well-plotted psychological mysteries. This “fine, frightening piece of work” (Kirkus Reviews) introduces inspector John Madden.