River of Darkness, by Rennie Airth

Hmm... I got this one from the library after reading a rave review of the audio book in the paper, and seeing that it was similarly highly rated on Amazon, but I'm not sure I can see what the fuss is about.

After a family is murdered in their country home, the police try and piece together what's happened and, after a couple of false starts, and in the face of some opposition, are soon on the trail of the killer, who seems likely to strike again.

Although it's a recent novel, it's set in the aftermath of WW1, and in some ways feels like it could have been written then: the pace is quite slow, and the descriptions are fairly restrained, given that it deals with a sexually perverted psychopath. I guess perhaps it captures the feel of the time fairly well, but the story didn't really grip at all. It almost felt like the target audience for the book was from an earlier age, and that the author didn't want to include anything that would upset their sensibilities.

I couldn't help feeling that the author was hoping that the simplicity of plot and lack of sophistication of the psychology of the killer would be excused because of the time in which the story was set. For example, the detective at one stage talks to a psychoanalyst about what might be motivating the killer. Since - in the context of the novel - psychoanalysis is a new science, the insights provided here are a revelation to the detective, but for anyone reading the book who's seen half an episode of "Cracker" they seem a bit ho-hum.

In several ways, this story for this book reminded me of "Red Dragon" - however, unlike that book, this one wasn't compulsively readable, wasn't frightening, and the plot twists weren't a surprise. Perhaps it was meant as an affectionate pastiche, but I don't think so. It was pleasant enough to listen to, but I don't think I'll bother with any more by this author.

Completed : 18-Jul-2003 (audiobook)

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