The Puppet Show by M.W. Craven

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Washington Poe book 1. Constable, 2018. ISBN: 9781472127440.
(Age: Adult - Senior secondary) Highly recommended for mystery lovers. CWA Gold Dagger Award 2019. Washington Poe is brought in to investigate a series of murders where the victims are burnt alive in prehistoric stone circles. His name has been carved into one of the victims and accompanied by Tilly Bradshaw, an awkward criminal analyist, he follows a trail that is obviously set up for him. I picked up The puppet show after thoroughly enjoying Black Summer, the second in the series as I found the personalities of both Poe and Bradshaw to be ones that I really liked and wished to read more about.
Craven's narrative is engaging and there are enough twists and turns to keep any mystery fan engrossed in trying to work out what is happening. And that ending was a surprise for me, which always makes for a more enjoyable read for a person who reads a lot of mysteries. There is a gradual fleshing out of the personalities of Poe and Bradshaw and the growth of trust between them makes for a great working relationship. Both are unusual characters, Poe dogged in his following of the case, over-riding his superiors and going his own way, and Tilly socially inept, but brilliant in her ability to analyse what is going on.
The cold landscape of Cumbria with its prehistoric stone circles makes an interesting background to the murders and the serial killer, nicknamed The Immolation Man, is one scary murderer.
This is a series that is sure to have a strong following from readers who enjoy clever plotting and excellent narratives.
Pat Pledger