Airith - Death of a True Love (The Airith Saga Book 1)
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The story is wonderfully layered, with almost every chapter seeming to add another aspect or provide a new avenue to the crime.
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Thanks to the slow burn of the story, these twists are often quite gentle and make the whole thing seem more complex, as the reader has longer to consider them before the next comes along. Rather than being a rollercoaster ride, the pace is more like a Tour de France rider going up a mountain stage, being far more measured and considered, but still leaving you wondering who will come out ahead at the end. Whilst I have a personal preference for the faster paced thrillers, in this case the slower pace worked perfectly.
The pace of life was slower in these times, particularly outside of the city where Madden was based. At some points, it did seem that things were moving too slowly, but once everything came together, I found it was well worth the wait. The ultimate ending did seem to come at a bit of a rush compared to what had gone before, but this didn't affect my enjoyment of the story. As well as having a gentle pace, the way the characters were slowly built up also worked very well.
Due to the setting, the characters were older than in the average police thriller, often forced into service beyond their years thanks to the war. This meant the slow pace of the story seemed quite natural, more like an Agatha Christie mystery or an episode of Inspector Morse than something out of The Bill.
Airith - Death of a True Love: The Airith Saga, Book 1 (Unabridged)
With the complexity of the mystery meaning it took some time to unravel, the slow progress towards the conclusion was very fitting. I also enjoyed the character development, as this was also done quite gently. Airth swaps between the London and Surrey locations, building up all of the characters and their parts of the story slowly.
You get to know everyone a little at a time, which feels more natural. Whilst the physical descriptions aren't terribly vivid, Airth almost spoon feeds their personalities piece by piece and I felt as if I was really getting to know them as people. The characters also have a sense of companionship and togetherness in a common cause which, as well as matching the feeling of the wartime setting, makes the whole cast of characters seem very likeable as a group.
The contrast Airth builds into the emotionless loner who is the villain draws a clear line between him and those trying to catch him and, in common with the rest of the book, does so more subtly than in many such stories. If there was one slight down side, it's that with the book being part of a series, there were references back to past events that suggested much that was missing here.
Whilst this didn't seriously hamper my overall enjoyment of the story, some of them were frequent enough and large enough that they interrupted the flow of the story. There were a few moments where I felt I was drifting along with the book and then one of these references suddenly stood out, like a large rock in the middle of a stream. As someone who tends to enjoy the cut and thrust of many crime thrillers, I wasn't expecting to enjoy The Dead of Winter as much as I did.
However, it's so wonderfully crafter and pieced together than this gentler pace of things soon seemed very natural. It does seem a little slow at times, but after a while the pace of the story felt quite relaxing. And all these little notes and bits about him, and the tests he had to take as an observer and all this; it was rather like having a school report. I was just very moved, it sort of played into the idea of writing a book about that time. The other thing was, my father never spoke about the war very much. When troops came back from the Second World War, they had lots of stories about the war.
So I think this was part of the problem why my father never talked about it. All the American forces arriving were very fresh, and very new.
I think the elite divisions arrived first, the marines and then the airborne. Even at the time my book is set — there were still thousands of men being treated in hospital for the after effects of what was called Shell Shock. He was very strong, strong willed.
You said you wanted to avoid a series where John Madden simply gets the next case to solve. I think the series and detective stories, some of them are very good of course. They sort of go through familiar routines. He thinks about these things. I also like the idea of looking at the English class system, and English society, how people behaved.
River of Darkness by Rennie Airth
And of course it changes during the books as they move on. I went there from South Africa, and worked in London for two or three years before I went abroad for Reuters. Then when I came back, I spent time in England. So yes, I know England quite well. That period that I write about was the period covered by books I read as a boy at school, and later. So in someways, it was very familiar to me. I get the feeling you very much enjoy having that bigger canvas to play with.
The thing is, in those books the important thing is to think about how people talked to each other at that time; how they spoke to one another, which is very different from now. There are two sex scenes in it. If people want sex, they can go online and look at porn. Jenny: What began as a possible trilogy now stands at five books with the publication last year of The Death of Kings set in Post War Britain. How has Madden evolved over the series?
So I put to my publishers the idea of a trilogy, which they were quite happy with. I got well into the whole family bit of the Maddens and the people around them. So I enjoyed writing more, you know.
I have a lot of readers in America, and they in some ways are enjoying my books even more. They like reading about that time in England, and the people there. The situations in your book have to be recognizable to people, to understand what problems people faced then. How they confronted them, and how they relate to their own lives.
Perhaps I sort of partly agree with him. You see, I think WWI was a great hinge in history. There was a before and after. We live in the after, still. Everything has changed, and I think the Nazis were a symptom of that. I once read stories about how when pilots were shot down, they were given honorable funerals by the other side.
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You sort of like to set up other possible candidates, and he was an obvious one. He seemed like the sort of man to have a twisted, sexual life.
But in fact, he was actually straight. What age has he got to in book 6? The Chief Inspector is getting quite old — he in this latest book is really feeling his years. I use all that about how you feel, and of course I like having the younger people in the books too. I can play it well against Madden, who adores her.
They become almost like real people. I wanted them to sound like the kind of books that might be from that period, rather than to give them a kind of modern sound. I think people like reading about periods of history that are quite recent — you know, quite recent and that you can relate to.
Mind you, they also like reading about earlier things. I read two or three of the earlier books, and really liked them. Those work very well. Jenny: Some of your postings with Reuters gave you opportunities for insights into some remarkable times — Washington under the Kennedy Administration, Havana and Saigon at the start of the Vietnam War.
Did you appreciate the uniqueness of your position at the time — and have you ever been tempted to write fiction based in any of them? I must say, when I was a young man he was my actual writer hero. I think you can do it that way, if you see what I mean. There was a kind of dead hand in life there.
Death of a True Love
I lived there during the apartheid times, and I felt that this was not where real life was going on. I just wanted to get away, and I got away. Now, if you travel in the tubes in London and anywhere; what a mix of ethnicities. I love it actually. Do you agree with that idea and if so what would you say that story is for you?