Thursday, 6 November 2014

The Reckoning by Rennie Airth

I don't know why it took me so long to pick up Rennie Airth's The Reckoning, which had me hooked from page one. Scotland Yard are stumped by a couple of execution style murders, and the apparently blameless lives of the victims, both men in their sixties. Retired policeman, John Madden, finds himself helping out his old colleague, Billy Sykes, when a letter is found written to Madden by the second victim, Oswald Gibson.

Gibson was worried about something, but shot before he could explain himself. Another murder occurs in Oxford, and the police fear they are on the hunt for a serial killer, while the only similarity between the dead men, and indeed Madden himself, is that all of them served in the First World War.

The plot picks up as the murder count rises, and Airth adds some terrific action as Madden and his old cronies close in on the killer. London adds buckets of atmosphere with an exciting chase scene through pea-souper fog.

There’s plenty to like about this traditional whodunit with some superb writing and brilliant characterisation. While Madden is obviously sympathetic and clever, the Scotland Yard team are a treat. There’s no-nonsense but oddly endearing Superintendent Chubb, and Sykes is a lively, ex-army sort who gets on well with everyone. 

But the star of the show has to be plucky Lily Poole, who has fought her way to a place in CID, only to be allocated safe cases that don’t stretch her obvious brain. She soon makes a breakthrough discovery and talks her bosses into letting her go undercover. Poole is lucky to escape with her life, which is a good thing, as I hope she and the rest of the team will be around for the next John Madden mystery – I’ll be putting it on my reading list for sure.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: The Reckoning

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