Dead Ground – MW Craven

Detective Sergeant Washington Poe is in court, fighting eviction from his beloved and isolated croft, when he is summoned to a backstreet brothel in Carlisle where a man has been beaten to death with a baseball bat. Poe is confused – he hunts serial killers and this appears to be a straightforward murder-by-pimp – but his attendance was requested personally, by the kind of people who prefer to remain in the shadows.

As Poe and the socially awkward programmer Tilly Bradshaw delve deeper into the case, they are faced with seemingly unanswerable questions: despite being heavily vetted for a high-profile job, why does nothing in the victim’s background check out? Why was a small ornament left at the murder scene – and why did someone on the investigation team steal it? And what is the connection to a flawlessly executed bank heist three years earlier, a heist where nothing was taken…

A new Poe & Bradshaw book is one of those things that will elbow its way to the very top of the tottering pile of books to read. I absolutely loved the first three – The Puppet Show, Black Summer and The Curator (not forgetting Poe & Bradshaw 3.5, Cut Short), and was really looking forward to this fourth full outing for DS Washington Poe and the inimitable Tilly Bradshaw.

I love them both. Poe, the irascible detective sergeant who manages somehow to rub pretty much everyone up the wrong way.

Poe collected enemies the same way the middle class collect Nectar points

And his best friend Tilly Bradshaw. I’d happily read pretty much anything with these two in it, no matter what it might be (seriously, go check out Cut Short, a delightful collection of three short stories).

And this time they’re in rather deeper than they’re used to. Summoned to investigate the murder of a man in a backstreet brothel in Cumbria by a secretive government department, our favourite duo find that there’s rather more going on than first meets the eye.

I could go into more detail about the plot, but suffice it to say that there are shenanigans, misdirections and twists as you’d expect. The case is bigger – involving not only MI5 but also the FBI, the stakes are higher, etcetera, etcetera. There are bank heists, mysteriously missing ornaments, an international trade summit, and a plot to take Poe’s beloved croft away. Oh, and a brilliant character by the name of Bugger Rumble. Craven weaves these elements together masterfully, and I couldn’t put it down.

Look, it’s a Poe & Bradshaw book. I assume you’ve read the first three (and a half) books already, so you’re already champing at the bit to read this fourth outing. If you’re new to the series, you could start here, but why deprive yourself of the fun? These books just keep getting better and better, and they were already pretty darn good to begin with.

Hugely recommended.

Dead Ground by M.W. Craven is published by Constable and is out now. Many thanks to the publisher for the advance copy of the book to review.

Author: dave

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

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