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The Puppet Show (Washington Poe) Hardcover – 7 Jun 2018
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A thrilling curtain-raiser for what looks set to be a great new series. (Mick Herron)
Satisfyingly twisty and clever and the flashes of humour work well to offer the reader respite from the thrill of the read. (Michael J. Malone)
A powerful thriller from an explosive new talent. Tightly plotted, and not for the faint-hearted! (David Mark)
Mike Craven is a forceful new voice in British crime fiction. (Caro Ramsay)
Washington Poe is a name destined to be spoken by crime fiction enthusiasts everywhere: Britain's answer to Harry Bosch. The Puppet Show is a wickedly, twisting and turning, mystery that will have readers breathlessly turning the pages until the final shocking conclusion. (Matt Hilton, author of the Joe Hunter series)
This book is twisted and dark and I loved it - not sure what that says about me (Simon Toyne)
A brilliant start to what promises to be a fantastic series; get it now or kick yourself for missing out (Graham Smith)
Dark, sharp and compelling (Peter James)
Nothing you've ever read will prepare you for the utterly unique Washington Poe (Keith Nixon)
A gripping start to a much anticipated new series (Vaseem Khan)
A dark and twisted crime thriller, perfect for fans of Michael Connolly, Peter James and TVs Luther. Welcome to the Puppet Show . . .See all Product description
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The premise of Craven’s story is the discovery of several burned bodies at said stone circles, mutilated while the victim is still alive. To top it all off, the latest recipient of these attentions, named ‘The Immolation Man’, has incised the detective Washington Poe’s name on his chest. So straight away, we have a number of questions that demand answers: what links the murders? What is the perpetrator’s motive? Why has he identified Poe in such a macabre way? The pace picks up rapidly and Craven drops in hooks and cliffhangers with expert craftsmanship.
As usual, I’m not going to give a detailed description of the story, but suffice it to say, the antagonist is playing the police and all concerned like the puppetmaster that gives the book its name. Speaking of the title, for me ‘The Immolation Man’ would have made an even more striking name for the book as novels with ‘puppet’ in the heading are littered across the thriller and mystery genre. Still, this is a small quibble.
One of the main characters, Tilly Bradshaw is the perfect foil to Washington Poe. At first sight, she is similar to Holly Gilby – Stephen King’s OCD support character from his Mr Mercedes trilogy. But Bradshaw develops into a unique individual, central to the novel’s attraction. The relationship between Bradshaw and Poe is an enthralling one, leaving enough substance to drive a series of novels. I believe Craven has already written the next one and there are others on the way. Like his previous books – ‘Born in a burial gown’ and ‘Bodybreaker’ – Craven employs tight plotting, lots of twists and turns and break-neck pacing. He leaves no loose ends, and at the end of the story the reader is left with a sense of Poe having unfinished business. I don’t think this is a spoiler, as we’re already told this will be the first in a series of books. I look forward to reading more.
Washington Poe is an ex-Detective Inspector with the Serious Crime Unit and is currently serving a suspension pending an enquiry into how he let confidential police documents fall into the hands of a victim’s family enabling them to take their own revenge. Poe is a highly driven person with an acute radar for injustice and often unreserved in how he would dispense retribution. There is a dark streak in his personality and he will forcefully jump to the defence of an abused colleague and be intolerant with those he disrespects or gets in his road, regardless of position. I read a post online suggesting that if it went to TV the perfect actor to play his part would be Idris Elba – I totally agree.
Tilly Bradshaw works for the NCA as a data analyst and is quite the genius with numbers and data patterns. She lives with a personality disorder on the autism spectrum, and Mike Craven has drawn this wonderful innocent character that we really care for. In her own way, she is very determined and strong willed but appears fragile with her naive and soft demeanour.
DI Stephanie Flynn has temporarily replaced Poe within the NCA and is performing as a capable, methodical and reliable boss that knows how to maintain police protocol. This is the important balance against the unsound activities of Poe and as a DI provides a much better stabilising and cohesive influence on the team.
The latest victim of the ‘Immolation Man’ has Poe’s name carved onto his chest, thereby pressuring the NCA to return Poe to the force and assist in solving the murders. Each victim of the Immolation Man is found burned to death within a stone circle in the Cumbria region. There is a modus operandi: a significance of the stone circles, a method of murder, a disfiguration, and they are all elderly men. The victims don’t seem to be selected at random but who is seeking revenge and for what. To find the connection requires Tilly and Poe to utilise their unique talents, especially in the face of a plot that is full of surprises and a revealing link to a set of crimes from the past. Poe is reminded of the Chinese proverb
“He who seeks vengeance must dig two graves: one for his enemy and one for himself.”
Mike Craven is a very talented writer that has created a debut novel and start of a series, with extremely appealing characters that readers will thoroughly invest in. His craft of the plot is captivating with layers of mystery and suspense that are totally engrossing. The additional elements of humour and colleague conflict are very entertaining but not overplayed, and the remote landscapes of Cumbria are vividly drawn.
I do feel fortunate that I've picked up on this series from the beginning. I would rate the book very highly and would have no hesitation in recommending to anyone that enjoys the murder/crime/mystery/thriller genre. I would like to thank Little Brown Book Group for a copy of the book in return for an honest review.