The Decent Inn of Death: A John Madden Mystery

Written by Rennie Airth
Review by Ellen Keith

The Decent Inn of Death is the sixth in Airth’s John Madden series and focuses on Madden’s former boss, retired Chief Inspector Angus Sinclair, during wintertime in the 1950s. While Madden and his wife Helen, Sinclair’s doctor, are on vacation, Sinclair visits an old friend and gets drawn into a mystery in his village. A detective is never really retired, so Sinclair digs in. His pursuit of the truth results in a classic locked room mystery where he is snowed in at the home of Julia Lesage, paralyzed former skier, and among the confined guests, there may be a sociopath.

I’ve dipped in and out of this series and wondered how much I’d remember these characters, but such is the power of Airth’s writing that they all came back to me. Although this starts as a Sinclair mystery, when Madden and his wife return from vacation and find Sinclair gone, Madden steps into action and the two detect along parallel tracks, although they are separated. Some plot points are telegraphed—Sinclair relies on blood pressure medication, so naturally that will disappear, and in a locked room mystery, there’s a process of elimination where only the good guys and the sociopath remain. Still, Airth has some surprises up his sleeve, and I hope this isn’t the 85-year-old author’s last mystery.