The Puppet Master by Sam Holland Review

Major Crimes Series #3

puppet master

After the fantastic The Echo Man and The Twenty by Sam Holland, we are heading back to Hampshire in the south of England with the Major Crimes Unit and the third instalment of the Major Crimes series. After some very brutal and challenging cases which have left behind their terrible marks on the detectives, we are back with DCI Cara Elliott and her team for yet another challenging and rather unique case, a superbly crafted dark crime thriller at its very best. Welcome to The Puppet Master.

When a series of suicides start to occur, surely they are just that? How can someone ending their life using a train as their weapon of choice, overdosing or using a shotgun on themself be connected? The ultimate and final acts of self-harm are surely just that, aren’t they? Unsettling as it is, the story is much more disturbing than that, somebody is manipulating and controlling seemingly unconnected people, coercing them to take their own lives. The Puppet Master is not just a killer; he’s a manipulator of the highest order, covertly pulling the strings in a macabre dance of death.

When the Major Crimes Unit take a case from the British Transport Police, something that in itself should be straightforward, little do they know it is soon to become something terrifying and quite different from the usual horrific murders they are used to dealing with.

Overall, The Puppet Master is an excellent book, albeit a little slow to begin with as remote murder by suicide doesn’t see a murderer running around killing people in brutal, gory fashion but in a more suggestive, controlling manner. And this is what makes it a very different, interesting, creepy and terrifying read.

Ultimately a police procedural hunting a serial killer, Sam Holland expertly navigates the narrative of mental health issues depression, bereavement, self-harm, PTSD and suicide with compassion, weaving this tricky subject matter into an excellent story. The story doesn’t focus on sensationalising the murders but keeps them as low-key as the story allows and focuses more on the police investigation.

With a theme centred around suicide, it isn’t going to be a storyline that suits everyone as it just seems that bit more real that a madman running around with a gun or a knife. Which is where the brilliance in this story lies, as it makes it much more frightening.

Whilst this can be read as a standalone novel, it does contain references to the previous books in the series and whilst readers don’t need to have read the previous two books it does help, more so to fully appreciate and understand the characters.

The Puppet Master grips you from the opening chapter to the last. It handles the sensitive theme of suicide extremely well which is a testament to the authors adept storytelling.

It is an excellent story of a hunt for a serial killer with a fantastic cast of characters but one that also explores the illusion of control and what factors in our own lives that could be manipulating us from the shadows. A thought-provoking theme.

A satisfying continuation of the Major Crimes series that builds on the dark and complex world of serial murder combined with the personal struggles of the investigating detectives. Psychological intrigue that will leave you wanting more.

The story, while slow at times, is ice-pick sharp, a true psychological thriller that sinks its hooks in and pulls all the right strings.

Rating: 4.5/5

RRP: £8.99 (Paperback) / £2.99 (Kindle)

For more information, visit Available to buy from Amazon here.

DISCLOSURE: All thoughts and opinions are my own. This review uses an affiliate link which I may receive a small commission from if you purchase through the Amazon link.