I recently picked up a book that I had been meaning to read for a long time, The Puppet Show by M.W. Craven, and absolutely loved it – I loved the characters, the story and the style of writing, so I wanted to dive straight in to the second book of the Washington Poe series; Black Summer.
The Washington Poe series is set in Cumbria, in the North of England, with the base of operations generally being Poe’s croft on desolate moorland. It has three central characters:
Washington Poe – a sergeant with the SCAS (Serious Crime Analysis Section), a department within the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA). A dark and cynical detective that is quite happy to work around the rules to catch a killer.
Tilly Bradshaw – a socially awkward and brutal honest civilian analyst for the SCAS. She has a genius level IQ and three PhDs, but she would have to look up on the internet for how to boil an egg. She is also Poe’s friend and work partner.
Stephanie Flynn – as a Detective Inspector with the SCAS, she is Poe and Tilly’s boss (and friend). She is the only one who can seemingly manage Poe and Tilly successfully.
The SCAS investigate serial killers and bizarre motiveless murders, In The Puppet Show, Poe and Tilly had to investigate The Immolation Man, who was leaving burning murder victims on the moors. In Black Summer things are about to become a lot stranger for Poe.
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.
Wow, I didn’t think that the second offering in the Washington Poe series would be better than the hugely successful The Puppet Show! I said in my review of The Puppet Show that it was an “extraordinary thriller” but Black Summer has gone above and beyond. Mike Craven has not just written a truly brilliant sequel but has surpassed it.
Black Summer sees the return of Poe and Tilly, an unlikely crime fighting partnership and friendship that works very well. Tilly has evolved slightly from her social awkwardness found in the previous book but she still has her fantastic quirks that make her character a delight to read.
With an opening chapter that grabs your attention with “An explosion of fat, guts, bones and blood filled his mouth. The sweet flesh and bitter entrails were sublime” you know that you’re are in for a treat. This novel has been very well crafted, packing in tension from the very first page. It is a story that weaves suspense through the pages with ease and expertise. It is horrifying, at times can disgust but is written with such skill that you just can’t put it down as it excites and thrills.
Black Summer is another dark, witty and exciting thriller that shocks and keeps you guessing. It is a very addictive and compelling read. The characters are excellent: Tilly and Poe are so different but work extremely well together and you can’t help but like them as the leap from the pages, whilst the Keaton character just oozes evilness.
Black Summer is the perfect crime thriller. If you have read The Puppet Show and liked it, you are definitely in for a treat with this. Impressive, exceptional and phenomenal just don’t do justice to this book, I loved it.
RRP: £19.99 (Hardback) / £8.99 (Paperback) / £7.99 (Kindle)
Read my interview with the author M. W. Craven here.