It is not that often that a book series grabs hold of me, leaving me wanting more by the author but that is exactly what happened with the Washington Poe series by M. W. Craven. I actually had the first book in the series (The Puppet Show) on my bookshelf waiting to be read for quite a while, but once I started reading I couldn’t stop and read all three books in the series as fast as I could. If you haven’t read them, you should! As I was so enamoured with the series, I wanted to read the author’s other series, the Avison Fluke series (Craven’s first novels originally published under Mike Craven but have since been republished under M. W. Craven).
The Avison Fluke series is a detective series set in Cumbria featuring Detective Inspector Avison Fluke of the Force Major Investigation Team (FMIT). He is a 40-year-old, brilliant but stubborn man who is recovering from a very serious illness, and concealing debilitating side-effects (so that he could get back to work). He has a tendency to speak his mind to the point of rudeness, with his focus on doing what’s right not what is easy. He ignores direct orders and is constantly in trouble with his superiors (or as he calls them, his inferiors) but with his team of “misfits” that he works with, gets the job done.
Born in a Burial Gown is the first in the Avison Fluke series.
When a young woman is found in a bag, buried in the open foundations of an under-construction hospital site the case is passed to him and his team. After the post-mortem discovers that considerable expertise has been used to conceal her appearance it very soon becomes clear that this is not a case of simple murder, especially when discovered that she has been shot once through the back of the head, execution style.
With the help of a psychotic ex-para and best friend, Detective Sergeant Matt Towler, a gangland leader and a woman more interested in maggots than people Fluke has to find out who she is and why she was murdered before the hunt for the murderer can even begin. And it’s not going to simple and straightforward.
Born in a Burial Gown is an absolutely absorbing and thrilling read, M. W. Craven is an excellent storyteller. Whilst Born in a Burial Gown isn’t as good as the Poe series (at least in my humble opinion) it isn’t far behind and is in no way a poor relation to Poe even though there are some similarities (maybe I should have started with this series?). The main characters of Fluke (brilliant and intelligent with a dislike for authority) and Towler (strong, dangerous and funny) are totally absorbing and engaging characters and are brought to life with their faults and character flaws, with the supporting cast just as engaging.
The story starts as a murder that is only discovered by accident and builds into a complex murder investigation that has associations with the ganglands of Cumbria, a mysterious victim and a hitman.
M. W. Craven has created a story that is intriguing, engaging, absorbing and at times brutal and gory. It is a fantastic read and an extremely good police procedural (although some parts are wrapped up a bit too neatly). I was gripped from the first to the last page.
Born in a Burial Gown is a well-written character driven story that is captivating, fast-paced and a totally gripping, gritty crime thriller. It is complex enough, with many layers, to make an interesting story but without losing the reader in unnecessary details, twists and turns so that the story doesn’t flow.
RRP: £8.99 (available in Kindle, Audible and paperback versions).