The Blood-Dimmed Tide (which takes its title from a W.B. Yeats poem) finds Madden now retired and living peacefully on a farm in Surrey with his doctor wife, the former Helen Blackwell, and their two children, 10-year-old Rob and 6-year-old Lucy.
The year is 1932, and the precipitous rise of the Nazis in Germany leaves many of their fellow countrymen, as well as no few Brits, worried for the future peace and stability of the European continent. More immediately concerning for Madden, however, is his discovery of the corpse of pubescent Alice Bridger–raped, disfigured, and secreted near a tramps’ backwoods campsite.
Suspicion falls quickly on a vagrant known as Beezy, who was supposedly visiting the area, but Madden–with his remarkable insight into crime (“Madden’s always had a way of seeing things clearly, of seeing through them, or rather beyond them,” relates a former police colleague)–thinks this is more than an isolated homicide.
Sure enough, a records check turns up similar slayings elsewhere in England, dating back to 1929, as well as an active investigation by German law enforcement into half a dozen dead girls in Bavaria and Prussia.
What accounts for both the wide range of these mutilations, and the lengthy lag time between them? Could the police be looking for a psychopathic traveler, or worse, a rogue spy who’s managed to maintain a respectable front at his international postings, while satisfying his malevolent appetites in his spare hours? And what is the “devil’s mark” that this killer reportedly bears?
Good. I liked it as much as the first one, Río de tinieblas. Everything I’ve said about that one works for this one, so I won’t repeat it here.
Notably, on this occasion, the plot unfolds 10 years later and we find that the protagonist, John Madden, has become a farmer and has married the doctor he met in the first novel. They have two children and don’t want to know anything about his old career at Scotland Yard. Only chance puts him in the way of a new series of murders, unable to stop getting involved in the investigation.
There’s a third installment in John Madden’s series, though, like this one, it’s not published in Spanish.