Washington Poe is one heck of a detective but for me, the star of M.W. Craven’s The Puppet Show, is Tilly, the unassuming tech geek.
The Puppet Show has been getting rave reviews since it first hit the hands of the lucky advanced readers and I think each and every word of praise is fully deserved.
If you’ve been hiding under a rock and have managed to miss this one, here’s the blurb …
Constable (24 Jan. 2019)
A serial killer is burning people alive in the Lake District’s prehistoric stone circles. He leaves no clues and the police are helpless. When his name is found carved into the charred remains of the third victim, disgraced detective Washington Poe is brought back from suspension and into an investigation he wants no part of . . .
Reluctantly partnered with the brilliant, but socially awkward, civilian analyst, Tilly Bradshaw, the mismatched pair uncover a trail that only he is meant to see. The elusive killer has a plan and for some reason Poe is part of it.
As the body count rises, Poe discovers he has far more invested in the case than he could have possibly imagined. And in a shocking finale that will shatter everything he’s ever believed about himself, Poe will learn that there are things far worse than being burned alive …
My thoughts …
Sometimes, a character comes along who just blows you away and Tilly Bradshaw is one of them.
As the blurb tells us, Washing Poe is currently suspended from his role as a detective and is living a quiet life in Cumbria. Until an old colleague turns up and tells him his name has been carved into the charred remains of the third victim of a violent and sadistic killer.
Poe doesn’t want to get involved but soon finds himself with a badge again and on his way to headquarters to be fully briefed on the events to date. One thing I loved about this one is that Poe isn’t a police officer in the usual sense – he and his team work for the National Crime Agency. The NCA work alongside other agencies to assist with investigations and as such, they have their own rules to follow … or not.
So, Poe is at HQ and he meets Tilly.
Tilly fast became one of my favourite characters. She is a complete computer geek, socially awkward, and utterly loveable. Poe notices that the other members of the tech team aren’t particularly nice to her, in fact, one of them is downright disgusting in his attitude towards her and Poe doesn’t take this lying down and insists that she be the one who goes with them as part of the investigation. Something which doesn’t go down well with the rest of the team. It’s seen as an honour to be taken out of the office and to the crime scene, an honour that none of the team think Tilly deserves.
But Poe doesn’t care about that.
Tilly is nervous and scared but determined. She is childlike in her views and experiences of the world but has a genius mind which becomes essential to the investigation.
She is a wonderful character. The type you immediately root for, the one you know that if the author kills them off you’ll never read their books again (Mike … you have been warned! Keep Tilly safe!) She has such an innocence about her you cannot help but care about her from the off. And the way Poe takes her under his wing is beautiful. Theirs is a relationship beyond compare in this genre, I adore them. Sometimes, it’s hard not to imagine your main character and their closest colleague not having a romantic link but that isn’t the case with these two and it’s a refreshing change.
Now, back to the murders.
Someone is killing random men by burning their bodies in stone circles. Think Stone Henge style arrangements throughout the Cumbrian countryside. Now, I had no idea there were so many of these around and they, along with the beautiful countryside, almost become a character themselves. Craven brings us into his world perfectly. The way he details the settings is wonderful and his descriptive prose is stunning.
The NCA are working ‘with’ the police on this one, not that the police want them. And the NCA aren’t happy about it either. It was great to see how the two agencies work and what resources are available to each one and put a nice spin on the typical police procedural. And with both agencies having limited trust in the other, it’s almost like a race to the finish with each throwing the other a small piece of information to make it look like they’re working together.
As the investigation hots up (no pun intended!) and more bodies are found burning in the circles, Poe and his team realise that all is not as it seems and … well … if you want to know more, you’ll have to read the book!
Hugest of thanks to the author and publisher for my review copy.
Bookworms, if you like your crime thrillers hard-hitting, terrifying, and captivating, you need to get involved with The Puppet Show!
And the best thing … Book two in the series, Black Summer, is up for pre-order now! Here’s the blurb …
After The Puppet Show, a new storm is coming . . .
Jared Keaton, chef to the stars. Charming. Charismatic. Psychopath . . . He’s currently serving a life sentence for the brutal murder of his daughter, Elizabeth. Her body was never found and Keaton was convicted largely on the testimony of Detective Sergeant Washington Poe.
So when a young woman staggers into a remote police station with irrefutable evidence that she is Elizabeth Keaton, Poe finds himself on the wrong end of an investigation, one that could cost him much more than his career.
Helped by the only person he trusts, the brilliant but socially awkward Tilly Bradshaw, Poe races to answer the only question that matters: how can someone be both dead and alive at the same time?
And then Elizabeth goes missing again – and all paths of investigation lead back to Poe.
Go and pre-order your copy now so it lands with you on 20 June!
About the author …
Although he was born in Cumbria, Mike Craven grew up in the North East before running away to join the army when he turned sixteen. After training as an armourer for two and a half years, he spent the next ten travelling the world having fun. In 1995 he left the army and completed a degree in social work, with specialisms in criminology, psychology and substance misuse. In 1999 he joined Cumbria Probation Service as a probation officer, working his way up to chief officer grade. Sixteen years later, he took the plunge and accepted redundancy to concentrate on writing. He now has entirely different motivations for trying to get inside the minds of criminals.
Between leaving the army and securing his first publishing deal, Mike found time to keep a pet crocodile, breed snakes, survive cancer and get married. He lives in Carlisle with his wife, Joanne, and his springer spaniel, Bracken.