Today’s new book came out in 2018, and is published in paperback next week
The Puppet Show by MW Cravenpublished 2018
Long Meg and Her Daughters, the scene of the third murder, and Castlerigg, the scene of the first, were two of most visually impressive prehistoric monuments in the country. They were internationally-known stone circles. Cumbria also had countless other Neolithic circles, including some that were so small they could only be identified from the air.
Poe didn’t know of any near Cockermouth. He suspected that either the police or the Immolation Man had seen a circle where there wasn’t one. Most fells in Cumbria had naturally occurring rocky outcrops and stone formations, and if you were standing in the middle of one it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to imagine they’d been strategically by a Stone Age civilisation thousands of years ago.
But Poe was wrong.
There was a stone circle near Cockermouth.
commentary: Apparently there are 68 stone circles in Cumbria in the North of England. That’s a bit worrying, because the serial killer in this book seems set on murdering someone near each of them…
MW Craven, a new author to me, uses his setting to great effect: the book is very much embedded in the Lake District, and the scenery is beautifully described as well as being an important part of the plot. The characters move around the area: Derwentwater and the fells, Carlisle and Keswick play key roles, and all are brought to life. This is Cumbria Noir…
The police service is panicking over the murders by Immolation Man, so they bring back a disgraced detective with the excellent name of Washington Poe. He links up with a young research specialist, Tilly Bradshaw: she has special needs but can deliver the goods. They are an excellent team, and we can only hope that this is the first of a series featuring them. Their relationship and dialogue are hugely entertaining and delightful.
This is a proper police procedural, with a very gripping step-by-step investigation, and some very clever clues. It is also a true serial killer book, and at times can get very gruesome indeed. That is my only reservation, and I feel I should point that out for those who like a warning. But as you can see from the comments on the cover, below, most people really like this book. It is very confidently-written, it doesn’t read like a debut at all.
The test for Poe and Bradshaw is to try to find what links the killer’s victims, and as usual the answer lies in the past and is uncovered bit by bit - and a very horrible story it is. By the end Poe is left with a moral dilemma, one only resolved in the final words of the book.
The sleuthing goes in all kinds of interesting directions. We learn about the Percontation Point – ‘a little-known notation used to indicate that the sentence is to be taken rhetorically, ironically, or as sarcasm.’ I’d never heard of it, so checked, and yes it is a real thing.
There is full and engrossing use of modern technology, and there is even a visit to a coffee shop in Carlisle that I have been to myself.
There is an exhumation scene – something I always enjoy, I once wrote an article for the Guardian about such events in literature.
With thanks to Jackie for making the connection…
Pictures show Long Meg and Her Daughters, top, Castlerigg, second, and the cover of the paperback – out on Jan 24th.