TITLE: River of Darkness
AUTHOR: Rennie Airth
First in a mystery series. I suspect the others won't have quite the emotional impact of this one, but I'm hopeful, because Airth is a marvelous writer. The prose isn't the best or prettiest and the book seems to be written in a somewhat stilted third person, but that doesn't matter. Here, the story and characters rule, and what a story. In a matter-of-fact way, a not-very-matter-of-fact story unfolds in the English countryside in the years following World War I. John Madden, a war vet and an inspector with Scotland Yard, is sent to investigate the brutal murders of a couple and their servants at a secluded manor. Madden, who lost his wife and baby before the war, brings his emotional baggage to the job, but his outlook on life is challenged when he meets Dr. Helen Blackwell, a vivacious doctor who administers to the town surrounding the manor. As John begins to suspect a serial killer is at work, with Helen's encouragement, he looks into the relatively new and controversial area of criminal psychology for answers.
This isn't much of a whodunit; the killer's pov is introduced about midway through the book, although it isn't clear he is the killer right off. But as the book develops, it becomes somewhat of a battle of wits as Madden and his team try to get the killer before he kills again. There's a thrilling climax, and the satisfaction in learning how all the pieces of the puzzle/loose ends all fit in. I'm looking forward to reading more of John Madden's adventures. In fact, I've got the next two on order.