The Puppet Show – M. W. Craven | @MWCravenUK @LittleBrownUK

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….

The Puppet Show was published by Constable on the 7th June 2018.

The Puppet Show has received A LOT (understatement!) of positive reviews so I had to see what all the fuss was about. I was dubious starting the book in case it didn’t live up to hype but it certainly did through a brilliantly complex storyline that gradually unravels itself and with stunning characters, particularly Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw. The follow up to The Puppet Show, Black Summer was published on the 20th June 2019, I have been lucky enough to have been approved by the publishers via NetGalley to review so look out for that shortly. It’s not often I read books from the same series back-to-back but I felt like I needed more from Poe and Tilly!

At the start of the book, Poe is suspended from his role as DI in the National Crime Agency (NCA) while an investigation is underway for a mistake during the previous case which had huge consequences. As a result, he has taken himself off to Cumbria to a house in the middle of nowhere, leading a simple life. That is until he is drawn into an investigation into a number of murders by the serial killer himself with a message on a victim. His temporary replacement DI Stephanie Flynn delivers an Osman warning (a formal police warning that his life is in danger) and asks him to help her with the investigation by becoming her DS. Poe involves criminal analyst, Tilly Bradshaw in the investigation. Tilly has a brilliant mind but is very naïve, having led quite a sheltered life. Poe takes her under his wing and they form an unlikely friendship. I really loved their characterisation; Poe is the classic protagonist who has got himself into a bit of bother and Tilly is brilliantly portrayed as super intelligent and someone who takes things very literally – which unfortunately for Tilly attracts bullies. The friendship between the two is surprisingly instant; I think because Poe is in awe of her intelligence and Tilly appreciates someone taking her out of her comfort zone and really putting her knowledge to good use. 

The storyline to The Puppet Show is amazing, it has so many layers which are each brilliantly plotted out and interwoven. For the majority of the book I had no idea who the actual killer was, I had a feeling as to why they were doing it but had no clue as to their identity….until the author was ready for the reader to know! I’m not going to lie, there are some gruesome scenes (hard not to be when the victims are burned alive!) but I loved it, reminiscent of Mo Hayder’s books where the subject and manner of killer is tough and at times difficult to read but approached with consideration.

This is my first book from M.W Craven and most definitely won’t be the last as I am 64% through Black Summer (amazing by the way!) and I look forward to reading his Detective Inspector Avison Fluke series. The series was originally published by Caffeine Nights however Little, Brown have bought the rights to the back catalogue and therefore this series will be re-edited, repackaged and re-published in January 2020.

The Puppet Show is one of my favourite reads for this year – highly recommended!!

M. W. Craven was born in Carlisle but grew up in Newcastle, running away to join the army at the tender age of sixteen. He spent the next ten years travelling the world having fun, leaving in 1995 to complete a degree in social work with specialisms in criminology and substance misuse. Thirty-one years after leaving Cumbria, he returned to take up a probation officer position in Whitehaven, eventually working his way up to chief officer grade. Sixteen years later he took the plunge, accepted redundancy and became a full-time author. He now has entirely different motivations for trying to get inside the minds of criminals . . .

The Puppet Show, the first in a two-book deal he signed with the Little, Brown imprint, Constable in 2017, was released to critical acclaim in hardback this year. It has been sold in numerous foreign territories and the production company Studio Lambert, creators of the award-winning Three Girls, have optioned it for TV. The sequel, Black Summer, follows in June 2019.

M. W. Craven is married and lives in Carlisle with his wife, Joanne. When he isn’t out with his springer spaniel, or talking nonsense in the pub, he can be found at punk gigs and writing festivals up and down the country.

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