The mutilated body of a young girl is found hidden in a wood by ex-Scotland Yard Detective Inspector John Madden. Her face has been brutally battered and she has been raped. Whilst the local police are concentrated on searching for a tramp known to be in the area at the time, Madden is not convinced this is a one-off opportunistic killing.
THE BLOOD-DIMMED TIDE is the second book in a series based in the 1930's, incorporating now retired DI Madden and his wife, Helen. John Madden now works as a farmer and his wife has a local GP practice in the small village just down the road from where the girl's body is recovered. Scotland Yard, and Madden's old colleagues are bought into the investigation and more bodies are discovered far away from this location. The investigation moves from the local police and villages to a much wider area across England and into Europe with Scotland Yard taking responsibility and focus ultimately shifting to the Diplomatic Service.
In this book John Madden discovers the body, has his doubts about the direction that the local police take and is ultimately in at the conclusion. Other than that, the investigation centres around the Scotland Yard team. The steps taken by the Yard detectives to identify a likely suspect were just a nice old-fashioned piece of strong detective work, without the availability of wiz bang forensics and resources that would be available in this day and age. The timeframe of the book sets it between the wars and there is a general feeling of menace with the build up towards the Second World War being felt in relations between England and Germany. The tramps and people's reaction to them adds a level of complexity.
The plot showed attention to detail and, in particular, the Scotland Yard personnel were an interesting cast of characters. The old fashioned detecting method of solving a crime was a refreshing change and very well handled. The involvement of Madden and his wife seemed a little opportunistic, designed to keep them in the story to maintain the feeling of the series. Whilst everyone is aware that Helen Madden is very protective of her husband, a few times she was in danger of just being a carping spoilsport, but ultimately the only minor quibble is that the Scotland Yard team did most of the work and Madden got the final glory.