Saturday, 6 March 2010

River of Darkness


River of Darkness by Rennie Airth was published ten years ago to huge acclaim. I read it at the time, and very much enjoyed it. But a lot has happened since then, and my recollection of the detail of the story had faded by the time I acquired an audio version of the book. So I listened to it whilst commuting and enjoyed it all over again.

The story is set in 1921. The bodies of Colonel Fletcher, his wife, and two staff members are found – they have been the victims of a frenzied killer. Detective Inspector Madden from Scotland Yard is called in. He is a war survivor, and his experiences in battle have scarred him – but he is a very human character, and we are pleased for him when he falls for a sexy doctor, Helen Blackwell. But although he is a very good detective, he is unable to stop the body count from rising.

The reading is by Nathaniel Parker, aka Inspector Lynley, and he did a very good job. This story is not a whodunit – the identity of the culprit is revealed at a relatively early stage, although the mystery as to his precise motivation (which clearly has deep and disturbing roots) is preserved until almost the end of the tale. For at least half of the audio version, the focus was on a manhunt – the forces of law and order in pursuit of a desperate but resourceful bad guy. Gripping stuff.

6 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - Thanks for reminding me of this one. Isn't it interesting how a mystery can grip one right from the beginning, even when we know early on who the criminal is? As you say, perhaps not a whodunit, but mysteries like that certainly keep the raeder involved.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

So this one is a whydunit instead of a whodunit? Interesting...I haven't read one of those for a while. Thanks for the tip, Martin!

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder

David Cranmer said...

It sounds like a protagonist and plot I would enjoy.

Martin Edwards said...

Margot, absolutely right. One of my favourite books is A Judgment in Stone by Ruth Rendell, in which the criminal is revealed at the outset.
Elizabeth - oddly enough, I once edited an anthology which I called Whydunit? !!
David, yes, it's a very good story.

Deb said...

Thanks for reminding me about this book. I read it a few years back and enjoyed it thoroughly (a mystery doesn't always have to be a whodunit; whydunits or howdunits can be just as captivating). One of the best aspects of River of Darkness is that the final outcome depends on a last-minute change of plan: A character doesn't leave the house when they were planning to. Aird shows how a very small decision like that has big consequences.

Ann Elle Altman said...

I love it when Nathanial reads. He has such a nice voice. I also love watching him on Lynley. I love good detective novels and should look this one up.

ann