Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Dead of Winter

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Rennie Airth's The Dead of Winter is a good police procedural with a heart-stopping ending.

Near the close of World War II in Britain, a sociopath named Marko kills John Madden's Polish immigrant worker Rosa. Madden sets out to solve the crime and catch the killer.

Marko prefers the garrote. He ruthlessly destroys all witnesses who might lead to him.

For me, the fascination of this book lay in its portrayal of its people. Airth creates clear portraits of people in all levels of society. He shows what the world was like at a time when I was an infant. He describes a changing environment at Scotland yard. For the first time, a woman is more than a foot policeman.

Madden and his gentle physician wife Helen wait for the return of their son from war, worrying all the while, that his ship might be the last sunk by the Germans. Even in rural England during the Christmas season, there is no escaping the tragedy of war and the terror caused by Marko.

There were all kinds of things about the setting which I didn't know. Many of the Scotland Yard detectives should be retired. The Yard kept them on because the nation needed all its younger men to fight the war.

People in London are still dodging V-2 rockets, the last breath of a dying German empire.

To the very end, people feared the tide might turn, the Germans and their allies might win another battle, the war might continue.

Setting, people, and a chilling psychopathic killer, all these come together to make for a strong story, a classic police procedural.


pattinase (abbott) said...

I had this one out from the library but didn't get to it. I'll reserve it again.

Joe Barone said...

I enjoyed the book and found it to be just what I said--a good police procedural.