The Puppet Show by MW Craven Little Brown January 21st 2019
Meet Detective Sergeant Washington Poe. Dark, cynical, ruthless; he lives a monastic existence in a shepherd’s croft on the most desolate moorland in Cumbria. Even his secrets have secrets. He has a past he keeps there and another past he doesn’t yet know about . . .
And now meet civilian analyst Tilly Bradshaw. Brilliant, adorably awkward, a social hand grenade; she lives at home with her parents and isn’t allowed out on her own. She has three PhDs but doesn’t know how to boil an egg. Meeting Poe will be her first step into the non-academic world. The world might not yet be ready for her . . .
And finally there’s Detective Inspector Stephanie Flynn. Poe used to be her boss, she’s now his. She heads up the National Crime Agency’s Serious Crime Analysis Section – the unit charged with apprehending serial killers and solving apparently motiveless murders. It’s the country’s last line of defence and although Flynn knows managing Poe and Tilly will be like herding cats, she also knows she’s the only one who can do it . . .
So why not start the journey with me as this trio of disparate misfits come together, form an uneasy truce and, as Poe says, starts ‘sherlocking the f**k’ out of things .
The beginning of the Puppet Show is definitely not for the fainthearted and I did worry that the gruesome details of burning bodies would be dominant throughout. I needn’t have worried, yes there were gruesome bits but it wasn’t a pervading theme, it was concerned more about the investigation to find the Immolation Man, a person who burnt his victims literally to the bone.
The novel had a wonderful cast of characters and Washington Poe was your typical detective, who always did a good job but did not always follow procedure, resulting in suspension until his name is found carved on one of the victims and he is brought in to assist with the investigation. He was a character that was instantly likeable and his solitary life on Shap Fell with his dog Edgar was wonderfully described by Craven. In fact that was one of the main assets of the novel, Craven was so brilliantly skilful at depicting the wild and remoteness of the Lakeland Fells, and perfectly created a very dark, chilling and at times dramatic feel.
I loved analyst Tilly Bradshaw, her intense high intelligence made her socially awkward and to see her emerge from her shell provided some much needed light relief.
The clashes between the Cumbrian police and the special crimes unit meant the investigation did not always run smoothly and Craven used it to great effect to add even more twists and turns.
It was a novel that kept you guessing, although I did work out who it was but not the reasons why. The reasons why did not make for pleasant reading but it did make me question my feelings towards the murderer which you don’t often encounter in crime novels.
The Puppet Show is fast paced , a real page tuner and a little different from all novels in its genre. I am very pleased to see it is number one in a proposed series featuring Washington Poe and await with baited breath his next thrilling instalment.
I would like to thank MW Craven for sending a copy of The Puppet Show to read and review.
About the author
I was, and remain, a happy person. I love to laugh and I’m forever on the lookout for new and innovative ways to do this. Other than my father dying when I was fourteen, I had a brilliant childhood. I was born in Carlisle but grew up in Newcastle. When I was sixteen I joined the army by accident (may that wily recruiting sergeant have a lifetime of TV programmes with incorrectly synced audio . . .). I spent the next decade travelling the world sweeping leaves. When every leaf was off every tree in every barrack in Germany, and safely in a bin liner, I dug a tunnel with a reconditioned mess-tin and escaped.
At a loose end, I considered becoming an expert in otters (sadly this is true). To further this aim I did a degree in social work. Thirty-one years after I’d left Cumbria as a babe-in-arms, heralded by the seven trumpets of the apocalypse, I returned to take up a probation officer role in Whitehaven. It was . . . boisterous.
Sixteen years later, and at the rank of assistant chief executive, I made the jump and became a full-time author. As one half of Mr and Mrs Craven, I am contractually obliged to say that getting married is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. With this in mind, a job you can do in your pyjamas comes a pretty decent second . . .
So here I am. Living in a beautiful and historic part of the country. Fells and mountains to pretend you’ve climbed. Forgotten villages to explore. Lakes to swim in and rivers to kayak down (I’ve done neither and I never will.). There are castles and mazes to get lost in, Roman ruins to scramble on (don’t do this, people will shout at you), and, as you’ll see in The Puppet Show, sixty-three Neolithic stone circles to run around naked (again, don’t do this; people really shout at you).
Also we have a lot of sheep.