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Rennie Airth

The Reckoning

Rennie Airth The Reckoning A John Madden Mystery
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Biographical note:

Rennie Airth is the author of six novels, including the John Madden series. The first, River of Darkness, was nominated for Edgar, Anthony, and Macavity awards, and won the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière.

Excerpt from book:

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof***

Copyright © 2014 by Rennie Airth

PROLOGUE

 

 

Lewes, Sussex, 1947

 

As he was fitting a new fly to his hook, Oswald Gibson looked up and saw two figures on the ridge above, both of them carrying what looked like fishing gear over their shoulders, long, cylindrical cases of the kind that you could fit two sections of a rod in.

‘Damn!’

They were coming over a saddle in the low green hills and, having spotted the grassy bank where Oswald was standing with his rod, were probably heading for that very spot. Upstream from a small pool where the trout paused, as though waiting for any tempting flies that might come their way, it was the best fishing site on the stream and one that Oswald had come to think of as his own.

And he knew what was going to happen next, almost as though it were fated. The men would turn up, they’d exchange polite greetings and then, after looking around and seeing that this was the place to be, they’d say, ‘Mind if we join you?’ and take out their rods, probably not even waiting for a reply.

And Oswald would say nothing. He’d make no complaint, not say that he did mind and would they kindly shove off and find somewhere else to do their angling. No, he’d stand there dumb and resentful, accepting – as he always had – his failure to stand up to others, unable to escape the vision he had of himself as one of life’s doormats.

‘For heaven’s sake, Oswald! For once in your life assert yourself.’ The words were inscribed in his memory as though on marble, which wasn’t surprising, given the number of times he had heard them. ‘Why do you let people walk all over you?’ He could hardly have replied that it was because he was a doormat (though he’d been tempted to, and more than once). Still, the whirligig of time brought in its revenges. (The saying was one of Oswald’s favourites.) Fresh in his mind still was the memory of the morning a year ago when he had come upstairs with Mildred’s breakfast tray and found her lying in bed, with her eyes staring and her mouth agape: stone-dead.

‘Stiff as a rod,’ he had murmured to himself in wonder as he’d touched his wife’s hand for the last time.

Meanwhile the men had crossed the saddle in the ridge and were coming down the hillside, close to where a flock of sheep were grazing, watched over by a dog. They were on a path that would join the one that ran along the valley floor, which in turn would bring them to his doorstep. Oswald braced himself for the encounter he was sure was about to take place. He could at least be cool with them, he thought: he would let them see they were not welcome. Perhaps they would take the hint and depart. As he stood there, already uncertain in his resolve, knowing in his heart that he was simply unable to deal with confrontation, he heard a piercing whistle and saw the sheepdog, a border collie, rise from the grass and begin to circle the flock it was guarding, coaxing them into movement. He scanned the hillside for their shepherd, a man he knew by sight, but it was some moments before he spotted him standing at the edge of a small copse near the crest of the ridge, his familiar figure blending with the shadow cast by the trees. For some minutes the sheep continued to move acros

Praise for The Reckoning:

“I have been a huge fan of Rennie Airth’s novels featuring John Madden since first reading River of Darkness, and had been eagerly awaiting The Reckoning—it does not disappoint. Airth is at the top of his game, engaging the reader with dense plotting, page-turning narrative and expert characterization. I absolutely could not put it down!”—Jacqueline Winspear, author of Maisie Dobbs
 
“The marvelous John Madden returns in a stunning new mystery—Rennie Airth’s The Reckoning will keep you pinned to the page to the very end!”—Charles Todd, New York Times bestselling author of the Inspector Ian Rutledge Mysteries and the Bess Crawford Mysteries

Praise for Rennie Airth:
 
“Move over, Inspectors Alleyn, Dalgliesh, and Morse, and make room for John Madden in the pantheon of great, civilized English sleuths. With THE DEAD OF WINTER, Rennie Airth now carries us through the third of Madden’s encounters with a killer sprung from a Europe at war with itself. It’s safe to say that once you’ve read it, you will start longing for Madden’s next case.” – Jane Kramer, The New Yorker
  
“Enter John Madden, protagonist of three fine novels…Madden is seamlessly admirable…In an era when our real-life heroes tend to have feet of thick, grubby clay, it can be bracing to spend time with a  man who is naturally but not implausibly noble.” – The Washington Post Book World
 
“[Airth’s] meticulously detailed procedural mysteries are beautifully written…[he] has produced three novels that are well worth reading, and rereading, whenever we’re engaged in war.” – Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times
 
“One of the best mysteries in years.” – The Boston Globe
 
“Airth writes with arresting authority and compassion…a major talent.” – Chicago Tribune
 
“It’s the tactics and the terrain, the morale and the characters that make the difference between an average thriller and one as good as this.” – Christopher Dickey, The New York Times Book Review
 
“A mystery thick with atmosphere and even psychoanalysis….Pay close attention to detail – the author did.” – Susan Hall-Balduf, Detroit Free Press
 
“Starts off as a genteel British whodunit but soon escalates into a suspense thriller…. However, Airth’s novel has an added psychological assurance and a tension-packed elegance. It’s up there with the works of P. D. James and Ruth Rendell. High praise indeed.” – Pauline Mayer, The Cleveland Plain Dealer


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