Black Summer is the eagerly awaited second book in the Washington Poe series, from Mike Craven. It is an outstanding return for Poe and his colleague, Tilly Bradshaw, in a thriller that is as captivating, dazzling and edgy, as any crime mystery I’ve read this year. Poe and Tilly have such a wonderful partnership that exudes humour, loyalty and great personal charm. They are both highly capable investigators, but from different ends of the spectrum – Poe who plays by personal interaction, hunches and his gut feeling, and Tilly who is a remarkable data scientist who operates through logic. As outliers, they don’t always fit well with others but have an affinity and stubborn loyalty to each other.
Six years earlier, Washington Poe led on the conviction of celebrity chef Jared Keaton for the death of his daughter Elizabeth. Her body was never recovered but the amount of blood found in Jared’s kitchen confirmed the location and that she could never have survived that amount of blood loss. Poe assessed Keaton as a charismatic, talented, psychopath, and deemed him the manifestation of evil.
Back in present times a dishevelled woman walks into a police facility and claims to be Elizabeth and she’s been held captive for over 6 years, where she has been abused and malnourished. DNA tests prove beyond doubt, she is Elizabeth Keaton, and Jared Keaton was, therefore, convicted for a crime that didn’t happen.
With Jared Keaton being released from prison, the finger of blame is pointing towards Poe. With revenge and incrimination converging on Poe, he reacts the only way he can.
“It was time to stop messing about. He needed to play his wild card. His nuclear option. He unlocked his Blackberry, typed out a four-word message, and sent it into the ether. Four words Keaton couldn’t have planned for, Tilly, I’m in trouble.”
Tilly arrives without delay with her arsenal of computers, peripherals and software that just puts her in a zone where data patterns and data enrichment, provide insights that few can comprehend. Can the skill and resourcefulness of Poe and Tilly resolve the mystery and the looming threats from a psychopath and a legal system both seeking retribution?
In an atmosphere of uncertainty, the tension and menace mounts as Elizabeth disappears again and the criticism falls on Poe. Mike Craven does a masterful job in providing nonstop suspense and suspicion as his plot winds its way through a story that is full of hostility and apprehension. The characters continue to evolve and in particular, Tilly is maturing in her social etiquette, not completely, as this is still causing some light humour. She also has her own team of techie geeks back at the NCA supporting police investigations. I loved the personal battle Poe has with himself, moving from a position of pity and anger at his own past to acknowledging his responsibility and power to change his life. It is brilliant characterisations that draw a reader into admiring or feeling anxious about the growth of a character. Mike is a writer with a wonderful sense of humour and you can see the opportunities he creates to entertain with some very witty and amusing situations.
I would highly recommend reading this book and I’d like to thank Little Brown Book Group and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC copy in return for an honest review.