The Puppet Show – M.W. Craven

A serial killer is burning people alive in the Lake District’s prehistoric stone circles. He leaves no clues and the police are helpless.

When his name is found carved into the charred remains of the third victim, disgraced detective Washington Poe is brought back from suspension and into an investigation he wants no part of.

Reluctantly partnered with the brilliant but socially awkward civilian analyst, Tilly Bradshaw, the mismatched pair uncover a trail that only he is meant to see. The elusive killer has a plan and for some reason Poe is part of it.

As the body count rises, Poe discovers he has far more invested in the case than he could have possibly imagined. And in a shocking finale that will shatter everything he’s ever believed about himself, Poe will learn that there are things far worse than being burned alive…

I bought The Puppet Show following a load of my bookblogger friends raving about it. Serial killer, dysfunctional detective pairing, sounds right up my alleyway.

They were right. I stayed up far too late one night on holiday powering through this book more or less in a single sitting (if you ignore the break to go get some food). A proper page-turner, this one!

Washington Poe (and what a great name *that* is) is summoned back from suspension to investigate a murder in his patch of Cumbria. The victim, as with the first two, has been burned alive. But this one has something carved into his chest. Carved when the victim was very much alive.

Loved this from the start – the unlikely but brilliant pairing of Poe and Tilly really made this story shine for me. Along with the Cumbrian setting which Craven depicts so well, you can really feel the sense of place in the mist-shrouded hillsides.

The Puppet Show is a strong police procedural, with all that entails – plenty of suspects (and victims), and plenty of following the trail of breadcrumbs, toasted as they may be by the Immolation Man.

I particularly loved Tilly – ace analyst, genius at computers, data, stats and gaming. Socially awkward at first, it’s her growing relationship with Poe as he takes her under his wing and starts to shine that lifts this from your regular buddy cop pairing.

I’m looking forward to the further adventures of Poe and Bradshaw, and luckily book 2, Black Summer, is out already! There are some perks to being late to the party.

The Puppet Show by M.W. Craven is published by Constable, and is out now.

Author: dave

Book reviewer, occasional writer, photographer, coffee-lover, cyclist, spoon carver and stationery geek.

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