The Blood-Dimmed Tide is, I suppose, best described as a police procedural, a type of crime fiction which I enjoy very much (as long as it is done well). The novel is set in the early 1930s and involves John Madden, a former police inspector who, following a harrowing case described in Airth’s previous novel River of Darkness, has given up his career to settle in Surrey with his wife and children and become a gentleman farmer. His connections with his former colleagues are still very alive, and when he assists with a search for a missing child which results in him finding her mutilated body he inevitably gets drawn into the investigation of what appears to be a serial killer at work.

That’s the bones of the story but what I enjoyed about this novel was the tone, which is rather melancholy; Madden had some terrible experiences in World War One and these colour his attitude to life. This makes Madden a genuinely sympathetic character, to my mind, and gives the novel a moral centre which is there even when we are following the activities of the other characters. I also found the backdrop of growing unease about what is happening in Europe, particularly in Germany, gave the story some depth. Unfortunately it looks like Rennie Airth has only written these two John Madden books which is a shame as I would have liked to see what happened to him. If I’m wrong and there are others in this series I would love for someone to let me know.

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