sylleptic: Ada Lovelace from the 2dgoggles webcomic, posed with her pipe and a giant cog behind her (Default)
So, I mentioned the possibility of book reviews. Here goes nothing.

While I was home recently, I read The Dead of Winter, the third of Rennie Airth's John Madden mysteries. (No, there is no football anywhere in them. Different John Madden.) The series started out as between-the-wars British mysteries, of the sub-sub-genre in which the detective, like his country, is badly traumatized by the First World War. Unlike most such series, though, there was actual recovery and progress, and this latest one has made it up to World War II.

It's set in a very atmospheric London of 1944, where a young Polish woman is murdered during a blackout. The police investigate, but more people quickly start turning up dead. John Madden, long since retired from Scotland Yard, gets involved in the case because the first victim worked on his farm as a Land Girl.* Feeling that he has somehow failed her, he helps his old partner, Chief Inspector Angus Sinclair, investigate the murders.

The plot is twisty, but perhaps overly-reliant on coincidences. It always kept me interested in the next revelation about the killer, however, and managed to retain some mystery even after the detectives learned his identity. The book is an odd hybrid of suspense and straight-up mystery, and the tension was built quite well. (Note: an excellent, if perhaps cliched, way to make your readers nervous is to introduce a group of innocents who apparently have nothing to do with the mystery midway through the book. Also, leave lots of hints about how isolated or vulnerable they are.) The writing trod the line of mystery and suspense fairly delicately, making me anxious without sacrificing the puzzle aspect of a good mystery, though the guns Chekhov hung on the wall were pretty obvious at times. I like Madden and Sinclair, the two main investigators, as well as several of the minor characters, though a few of them verge on caricatures. Sinclair is somewhat more the focus than in the previous books, but that works well.

Short review: it's a well-written, fairly well-plotted mystery with aspects of suspense and good returning characters.

A few more thoughts, with spoilers for the book. )

* I forgive Airth for this coincidence, since Madden has only "happened" to encounter two murder cases since retiring from the police force. That's stretching the bounds of plausibility, but not too badly. (Michael Innes, I'm looking at you.)


sylleptic: Ada Lovelace from the 2dgoggles webcomic, posed with her pipe and a giant cog behind her (Default)

January 2013

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