Crime Mystery Thriller

The Puppet Show – M.W. Craven

20 January 2019
The Puppet Show Book Cover The Puppet Show
Washington Poe
M. W. Craven
Detective and mystery stories

Welcome to the Puppet Show . . . 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 ... 'A powerful thriller from an explosive new talent. Tightly plotted, and not for the faint-hearted!' David Mark 'A gripping start to a much anticipated new series' Vaseem Khan 'Satisfyingly twisty and clever and the flashes of humour work well to offer the reader respite from the thrill of the read.' Michael J. Malone 'Nothing you've ever read will prepare you for the utterly unique Washington Poe' Keith Nixon


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The Puppet Show is a fascinatingly dark serial killer hunt that is packed with intrigue, subterfuge, vengeance, and characters that provide such enthralling dynamics that make this a truly outstanding thriller. A brilliant read.

Washington Poe is an ex-Detective Inspector with the Serious Crime Unit and is currently serving a suspension pending an enquiry into how he let confidential police documents fall into the hands of a victim’s family enabling them to take their own revenge. Poe is a highly driven person with an acute radar for injustice and often unreserved in how he would dispense retribution. There is a dark streak in his personality and he will forcefully jump to the defence of an abused colleague and be intolerant with those he disrespects or gets in his way, regardless of position. I read a post online suggesting that if it went to TV the perfect actor to play his part would be Idris Elba – I totally agree.

Tilly Bradshaw works for the NCA as a data analyst and is quite the genius with numbers and data patterns. She lives with a personality disorder on the autism spectrum, and Mike Craven has drawn this wonderful innocent character that we really care for. In her own way, she is very determined and strong willed but appears fragile with her naive and soft demeanour.

DI Stephanie Flynn has temporarily replaced Poe within the NCA and is performing as a capable, methodical and reliable boss that knows how to maintain police protocol. This is the important balance against the unsound activities of Poe and as a DI provides a much better stabilising and cohesive influence on the team.

The latest victim of the ‘Immolation Man’ has Poe’s name carved onto his chest, thereby pressuring the NCA to return Poe to the force and assist in solving the murders. Each victim of the Immolation Man is found burned to death within a stone circle in the Cumbria region. There is a modus operandi: a significance of the stone circles, a method of murder, a disfiguration, and they are all elderly men. The victims don’t seem to be selected at random but who is seeking revenge and for what. To find the connection requires Tilly and Poe to utilise their unique talents, especially in the face of a plot that is full of surprises and a revealing link to a set of crimes from the past. Poe is reminded of the Chinese proverb

“He who seeks vengeance must dig two graves: one for his enemy and one for himself.”

Mike Craven is a very talented writer that has created a debut novel and start of a series, with extremely appealing characters that readers will thoroughly invest in. His craft of the plot is captivating with layers of mystery and suspense that are totally engrossing. The additional elements of humour and colleague conflict are very entertaining but not overplayed, and the remote landscapes of Cumbria are vividly drawn.

I do feel fortunate that I’ve picked up on this series from the beginning. I would rate the book very highly and would have no hesitation in recommending to anyone that enjoys the murder/crime/mystery/thriller genre. I would like to thank Little Brown Book Group for a copy of the book in return for an honest review.

Peter Donnelly

Founder of The Reading Desk, supporting readers, authors, publishers and book industry. Top Reviewer on Amazon, Goodreads, and NetGalley

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