Since lockdown began I have been trying to catch up with my reading and decided to choose a book from my “To Be Read” pile, that just seems to be getting bigger and bigger. So after hearing so much about M.W. Craven and his Washington Poe series, I decided to try book number one in the series, The Puppet Show.
The Puppet Show is dark, gritty and exciting thriller that introduces us to DS Washington Poe, Mathilda “Tilly” Bradshaw and DI Stephanie Flynn. And what an explosive read!
DS Washington Poe works for the Serious Crime Analysis Section (SCAS), a section of the National Crime Agency (NCA). SCAS are only invited to investigate crimes by other police forces when serial killers are on the prowl or when cases have no apparent motive and the local investigating police force are stumped.
When a series of bizarre murders occur, each ending with the victim being burned alive in the Lake District’s prehistoric stone circles, the police are stumped and call in the SCAS. When a name is found carved into the chest of the third body found, the suspended Washington Poe is called back in on a temporary basis to investigate – an investigation that he wants no part of.
He is reluctantly paired up with a strange civilian analyst, Mathilda “Tilly” Bradshaw, who has a brilliant mind but is very socially awkward. Together they head off to Cumbria and between them have to try and solve the bizarre murders that the killer, “The Immolation Man”, has gone to great lengths to get him involved in.
Overall, I absolutely loved this book. Whilst I have had it on my shelf to be read for a long time, it is definitely one of the best crime thrillers I have read this year.
The story is dark and gritty, and extremely compelling. The characters are excellent – Poe and Tilly are completely different, but complement each other very well. Poe does things his own way with little regard for authority or the rule book with his gut instinct taking precedent, whilst Tilly is extremely literal and does EVERYTHING she is told (if I had to pick a favourite, for me Tilly just edges it over Poe). Tilly’s quite literal behaviour adds in humour and you just can’t help raising a smile.
The story is very well written and has enough chapters that end in suspense to keep you reading more, without dragging out the story. The murders are brutal with a quite unique aspect, it can be pretty gruesome at times (I won’t ruin the story by saying what), but I think it has been handled very well. But the story focuses more on the hunt rather than the murders.
The Puppet Show is an excellent crime thriller that has the perfect blend of crime, gruesome murder, believable and likeable characters with a good flowing story. It has a few twists and turns to keep you guessing along the way and is a book that is very hard to put down, it took me a long time to pick it up but I found it hard to stop reading.
An extraordinary thriller with fantastic characters and a story that is dark, witty, exciting and thrilling.
RRP: £19.99 (Hardback) / £8.99 (Paperback) / £3.99 (Kindle)
Read my interview with the author M. W. Craven here.