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The Death of Kings (John Madden Series #5)

The Death of Kings (John Madden Series #5)

by Rennie Airth

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"Rennie Airth is one of the best detective writers around. And The Death of Kings is his best book yet."—Philip Kerr, New York Times bestselling author of The Other Side of Silence

In the fifth novel in the critically acclaimed John Madden series, the former Scotland Yard detective returns in a gripping post-World


"Rennie Airth is one of the best detective writers around. And The Death of Kings is his best book yet."—Philip Kerr, New York Times bestselling author of The Other Side of Silence

In the fifth novel in the critically acclaimed John Madden series, the former Scotland Yard detective returns in a gripping post-World War II mystery that will delight fans of Philip Kerr
On a hot summer day in 1938, a beautiful actress is murdered on the grand Kent estate of Sir Jack Jessup, close friend of the Prince of Wales. The arrest of an ex-convict and his subsequent confession swiftly bring the case to a close, but in 1949, the reappearance of a jade necklace raises questions about the murder. Was the man convicted and executed the decade before truly guilty? 
Though happily retired from the police force, John Madden is persuaded to investigate the case afresh. In a story of honor and justice that takes Madden through the idyllic English countryside, post-war streets of London, and into the criminal underworld of the Chinese Triads, The Death of Kings is an atmospheric and captivating police procedural.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Marilyn Stasio
Airth knows not to overdo the historical background; he gives us just enough to see this period whodunit from a wider perspective.
Publishers Weekly
★ 10/24/2016
The strangulation murder of actress Portia Blake in Kent, in 1938, propels Edgar-finalist Airth’s excellent fifth John Madden mystery (after 2014’s The Reckoning). In 1949, Angus Sinclair, formerly a chief inspector, now retired, asks Madden, who has left London’s Metropolitan Police, to reinvestigate the crime. Although Owen Norris, an itinerant farmworker with a history of violence against women, confessed to Blake’s murder and was executed, Sinclair is unsettled to receive an anonymous letter suggesting that Norris was innocent. The letter includes a jade pendant purporting to be the one that disappeared from the corpse. Despite his lack of any official status, Madden agrees to poke around quietly into the old case, in the hopes of finding sufficient evidence to warrant the police reopening it. The passage of time and the intervening deaths of people who could have shed light on what happened make this a daunting task. Golden age fans looking to pit their wits against a savvy sleuth will be more than satisfied. Agent: Joy Harris, Joy Harris Literary Agency. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
"Rennie Airth is one of the best detective writers around. And The Death of Kings is his best book yet."—Philip Kerr, New York Times bestselling author of The Other Side of Silence

“A well-constructed story—a real page-turner.” New York Journal of Books

“The fifth in Airth's series is an intelligent character study.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Fans looking to pit their wits against a savvy sleuth will be more than satisfied.”—Publishers Weekly 

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

Library Journal
It's been 17 years since readers were introduced to Insp. John Madden in River of Darkness. At the time Madden was a returning World War I veteran whose experiences in the trenches and collaboration with Dr. Helen Blackwell convinced him to employ the as yet unproven science of psychological profiling to track down a serial killer. By 1949, the time frame for Airth's latest, Madden has happily retired to the life of a farmer, but he's called back into service to investigate a cold case on behalf of two former colleagues. Once again readers are treated to an insider's view of Madden's contemplative approach to his inquiries; this time he's delving into the social world of Britain's aristocracy in search of the true killer of would-be actress Portia Blake, who died on the Kent estate of Sir Jack Jessup 11 years earlier. VERDICT This volume will be warmly welcomed by series followers and can be recommended to fans of British procedurals and golden age mysteries alike.—Nancy McNicol, Hamden P.L., CT
Kirkus Reviews
Two ex-detectives' persistence throws new light on an old murder in postwar England.Eleven years after actress Portia Blake was murdered on a country estate, an anonymous letter and a flawed jade pendant make retired Chief Inspector Angus Sinclair wonder if the wrong man was hanged for the crime on his watch. Too laid up with gout to travel, he asks his former subordinate John Madden, also retired, to persuade Scotland Yard to reopen the case. But there's no proof that the jade pendant is the same one Portia was wearing the day she left Sir Jack Jessup's house, climbed up a hill, and was strangled with her own scarf. The ex-con who was arrested for her murder confessed, the police stopped following other leads, and the condemned man, even though he recanted, was executed. But Sinclair is so perturbed that Madden unofficially visits the crime scenes and interviews Portia's fellow houseguests from the day of the murder. Sir Richard Jessup, the son of Portia's original host, helpfully enlightens Madden about Stanley Wing, the Eurasian guest who brought Portia to the house party. Sir Jack had rescued Wing from the streets when he was a boy, raised him at his own expense, and made him his business partner in the Asian trade until Sir Richard had to throw him out for questionable practices. Wing's presence at the party was awkward enough, but Portia's provocative behavior seemed calculated to embarrass the men at dinner the night before her murder. A sensational news headline finally forces Scotland Yard to reopen the case, and a new anonymous letter with a series of photos clearly intended for blackmail moves the dogged investigation in a new direction. The fifth in Airth's series (The Reckoning, 2014, etc.) is an intelligent character study conducted at a crawl. The hero's fans will find him as thoughtful and principled as ever, but lovers of heart-pounding whodunits should look elsewhere.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
John Madden Series , #5
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)

Meet the Author

Rennie Airth was born in South Africa and worked as a foreign correspondent for Reuters news service for many years. The first novel in his John Madden mystery series, River of Darkness, won the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière for best international crime novel of 2000 and was nominated for Edgar, Anthony, and Macavity awards.

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