Rennie Airth was born in South Africa and was a journalist until he turned to the writing of fiction. John Madden, like Charles Todd’s Ian Rutledge, has returned to Scotland Yard after serving with British Forces in World War I. Madden is as deeply scared as Rutledge, although the two characters are completely different. Madden is not only dealing with the trauma of the battlefield, he has also lost his wife and daughter in the flu epidemic. For Madden, work is a way to avoid facing his personal losses.
Airth created the character after coming across material left by an uncle who was killed during the first world war. Madden does not come from the same privileged background as Rutledge and so he brings a different slant on life to the business of crime solving. He is more open to those he meets than Rutledge.
I read each of these books as they were published so the reviews on Amazon are more accurate than my memory.
From Kirkus Reviews
All the familiar elements of suspense writing are given an unusual and satisfying twist in this grim and fascinating thriller set in the English countryside shortly after WWIthe initial volume of a promised series. Inspector John Madden of Scotland Yard, a taciturn veteran and casualty of that war, and a widower still mourning the loss of his wife and young daughter, is sent to investigate the gruesome murders of a prominent, well-liked family in a small Surrey village. Aided by young constable Billy Styles, as well as an initially almost indistinguishable parade of local police personnel and their several superiors, Madden is quick to recognize the nature of his quarry’s particular expertise. An unsolved earlier murder is shown to eerily parallel the present one, and the hunt is underway, for an ex-soldier whose modus operandi includes “constructing a military-type dugout” near the scene of each successive crime he patiently plots and carries out. In a nail-biting narrative that generates terrific suspense, Airth juxtaposes the specifics of the police’s investigation with brief glimpses of victims-to-be and also chilling views of their scarcely human killerwhose identity is soon revealed, though the full truth of his complex motivation is saved for the closing pages. The impression of a world made mad by the carnage and psychic weight of the recent war is very strikingly conveyed. As a Viennese psychiatrist (whom Madden consults) puts it: “When it comes to injuries wrought to the human psyche, there is no need to look further than the experience of the common soldier in the trenches.” And the depth of that madness becomes vividly apparent as the story reaches its savage climax, sobering denouement, and elegiac conclusion. A fine, frightening piece of work. One looks forward to meeting Inspector John Madden again soon. — Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Airth is a fastidious plotter, expert in trickling out twists that heighten story tension but don’t leave readers awash in red herrings. Although Madden’s role here is somewhat less than it was in River of Darkness–a consequence of his strong-willed wife trying to protect him from further hurt, after the horrendous events of that previous tale–the author compensates by giving us a supporting cast of amply dimensioned Yard types, led by Chief Inspector Angus Sinclair, a perceptive Scot whose doggedness pairs well with Madden’s gift for inspiration. While Airth fails, oddly, to exploit a couple of opportunities for interesting plot turns at book’s end, his psychological portrait of the murderer imbues Tide with a fine pathos, and the backdrop of Nazi power-grabbing sets the stage for what is supposed to be a third and final Madden yarn. Let’s hope that novel appears in more expeditious fashion. –J. Kingston Pierce –
-Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review
On a freezing London night in 1944, Rosa Novak is brutally murdered during a blackout. Scotland Yard suspects the young Polish refugee was the victim of a random act of violence and might have dropped the case if former police investigator John Madden hadn’t been her employer. Madden feels he owes it to Rosa to find her killer and pushes the investigation, uncovering her connection to a murdered Parisian furrier, a member of the Resistance, and a stolen cache of diamonds.
Delivering the atmospheric writing and compelling characters that have already established Rennie Airth as a master of suspense as well as style, this long-awaited third installment in the John Madden series is historical crime writing at its best.