Friday, August 28, 2009

What We're Reading: The Dead of Winter

Being a fan of British crime fiction, both in print and on film, I happened upon The Dead of Winter in a local bookstore (yes, I work in a library, but spend off-time in bookstores!). I was unfamiliar with the author, Rennie Airth, but the cover and blurb seemed interesting so I made the purchase. And what a treat it turned out to be.

The book is the third in a series, but easily stands up on its own. Set in the war-ravaged London and rural England of 1944, The Dead of Winter is rich with a sense of place and historical details as well as a fully realized cast of characters. The murder of a young Polish woman during a London blackout seems, at first, to be a random act of violence. The case would have been dropped by the police if it were not for the fact that victim Rosa Novak was employed by former Scotland Yard investigator John Madden. Feeling he owes it to Rosa to find her killer, Madden encourages his former colleagues to continue the investigation. Then he stumbles on the young woman’s connection to a prewar murder in Paris and a cache of stolen diamonds.

Born in South Africa, author Rennie Airth worked for many years as a foreign correspondent for Reuters before becoming a novelist. His two other John Madden mysteries are River of Darkness (a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Novel and a Macavity Award for Best Mystery, and a New York Times Notable Book), and The Blood-Dimmed Tide. As an interesting footnote, this is the first series I’ve read where a decade passes between books. The first novel is set just following the First World War, the second takes place in the 1930s, and the third in the 1940s. If you like British mysteries, keep an eye out for these wonderfully riveting thrillers. They will soon be on the mystery shelf at your library. Of course, now I have to go back and read the first two books in the series!

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