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John Madden Books In Order

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Publication Order of John Madden Books

River of Darkness (1999)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Blood-Dimmed Tide (2004)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Dead of Winter (2009)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Reckoning (2014)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Death of Kings (2017)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Decent Inn of Death (2020)Description / Buy at Amazon

The “John Madden” series follows Detective Inspector John Madden, who works for Scotland Yard and solves crimes in the early twenties to as late as the mid forties. He was a veteran in World War One and developed shell-shock as a result of his service.

Rennie Airth got inspiration to write the series when he found a scrapbook that contained pictures of an uncle that was killed during World War One.

“River of Darkness” by Rennie Airth is the first novel in the “John Madden” series and was released in 1999. The quiet English countryside Surrey village is wrecked when five victims are found, brutally murdered; the woman is mostly nude and her throat was cut with a razor. The other four, were killed with what appears to be military efficiency. It appears a bayonet was used to kill them. There are two things that puzzle investigators, a small child under the bed and a lack of sexual abuse to the woman. The local police thinks it is just a robbery gone bad, but Madden knows there is more to it than that and it was something more sinister. He goes to Dr. Helen Blackwell, and she knows someone that can get him a psychological profile of the killer. He cannot investigate the case without being reminded of all that he went through in the war. Dr. Blackwell tells him that he should confront his problems head on.

Fans of the novel liked that Rennie was able to transport back to the time of 1921, and the vivid descriptions help to make the novel great. Some felt that the characters experiencing loss and trying to put their life back together again made the readers feel sympathy for these people. It is amazing how many people were affected by a war, either you fought in the war and came back with shell-shock or you know or are related to someone who died in the war. Some found the novel to be a work of art. The novel features characters that you feel as though you know them very much so and the novel’s plot is a plausible one with great research. All making this series one to follow for novels to come.

Some did not like the way the novel feels like watching grass grow, and is like a cup of luke warm water. Story has a been there done that feel with weak characters. Readers felt, that at times, there were gaps where there should have been more information about something but instead it got skipped over. Some thought that the novel could have lost a hundred pages and it would have made the novel a lot better for them to read.

“The Blood-Dimmed Tide” by Rennie Airth is the second novel in the “John Madden” series and was released in 2003. This novel is set in 1932. A girl’s mutilated corpse near John Madden’s home brings Madden back into the fold of investigating crimes after he had retired. He returns, even though his wife does not like it, and has some issues with it. It sees him hunting down a killer that will have implications that stretch wide, in a time of Hitler rising up to be a big figure in the world.

Fans of the novel found that the novel was just as good as, if not better, than the first and that the novel features characters that have been developed and make you feel as though the author knows them very well. Readers thought that the plot added to things, finding that when you find out who the killer is, that is when the things really gets interesting and suspense comes in. Some liked that even though the novel is set in the thirties, you still get some insights, psychologically speaking. Some like the way that Airth lets things build and is in no hurry to tell his story, and setting the novel in the thirties really helps capture the mood, making this procedural even better.

Some did not like this novel, finding that Helen is just a nag who made John give up his true calling of being a cop and does whatever she wants. Readers thought that the novel also gets bogged down by some parts. Some felt the novel, unlike the first, also hardly featured John Madden and that he should be the star. Not just a background player. Some felt that the novel has a lot of past tense writing with too many flashbacks and not enough editing in parts. Some felt the novel was slow moving and labored due to the fact that Madden is no longer a cop.

“The Dead of Winter” by Rennie Airth is the third novel in the “John Madden” series that was released in 2009. The novel is set in 1944. A young Polish girl, named Rosa Novak, is found murdered during the second world war in London and John must go on the hunt of a hired killer considered ruthless. Police looking into things think that she was just a victim of a random attack, however. The only thing stopping them from dropping the case is the young girl was working for Madden. Scotland Yard investigates and it leads them to war torn Europe, stopping their inquiry pretty quickly. Madden feels that he owes it to Rosa to find her killer, and finds a murdered furrier, some diamonds, and someone with a Resistance.

Fans of the novel enjoy the way Airth recreates London during the war and all the aspects of the area at the time. Some found themselves finishing this novel and wanting more from the series. All of the characters in the novel are well drawn, even those that are not in the novel for very long feel well rounded. There are strong relationships that the characters have with one another, that make things feel even more real.

Some did not like all of the exposition in the novel, and feels like the author was rushed into taking a shortcut.

The novel, “River of Darkness” won the best international crime novel in 2000 from Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere. The novel also got nominations from Macavity, Anthony, and Edgar.

Book Series In Order » Characters » John Madden

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