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The Puppet Show (Washington Poe #1)

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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 soci 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...


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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 soci 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...

30 review for The Puppet Show (Washington Poe #1)

  1. 3 out of 5

    Paromjit

    You can always tell if a piece of crime fiction is special and MW Craven's debut marks the arrival of a gifted and natural crime writer with a bright future ahead of him. Set in the sparsely populated Cumbria with its numerous stone circles, Washington Poe, has settled into and fixing up his recently acquired croft, suspended as a DI in the National Crime Agency after being mired in scandal in his last case. He has no intention of returning to his job, but his name has been found carved in the b You can always tell if a piece of crime fiction is special and MW Craven's debut marks the arrival of a gifted and natural crime writer with a bright future ahead of him. Set in the sparsely populated Cumbria with its numerous stone circles, Washington Poe, has settled into and fixing up his recently acquired croft, suspended as a DI in the National Crime Agency after being mired in scandal in his last case. He has no intention of returning to his job, but his name has been found carved in the burnt body of the latest victim of the serial killer dubbed 'The Immolation Man' by the media along with the number 5. DI Stephanie Flynn, the woman who replaced him, and the NCA want him back working the case. Overcoming his initial reluctance, he cannot resist trying to find out why the killer is targeting him, and returns to the NCA. He is demoted to DS, working under Flynn, and partnered with SCAS crime analyst, Tilly Bradshaw. One of the main highlights of the novel is Tilly, an Asperger's afflicted young woman, the best analyst in the NCA. She has 2 PhDs from Oxford, with remarkable abilities when it comes to statistics, data, computer skills and programming, pattern recognition and more. She is naive, innocent, having been sheltered from the world, takes everything literally, has problems adapting to situations and is targeted by bullies. Tilly is shunned, obsessive, a gaming aficionado, has the habit of saying the unexpected, unaware it may be unacceptable, breaking social norms and expectations on a continual basis. Watching her relationship develop with Poe is a true joy, both poignant and comic, she becomes considerably more resilient, coming out of her shell as she and Poe bond. Poe is unmanageable from the point of view of his superiors, relentless as he pursues the killer, ignoring the obstacles and people standing in his way in his search for the truth. He has some very dark corners within his personality that make him a compelling and charismatic central character. This is a novel that takes in the worst that humanity can do, a killer that has spent years planning his revenge on those complicit in not only destroying his life, but those of others. You cannot help but feel for the killer, facing insurmountable problems when it comes to getting redress through the corrupt judicial system and up against powerful forces intent on preventing the truth emerging. Poe is shocked to discover just how personally close to him the case emerges to be. Everything about the novel is brilliant, the twists, the plotting is exceptional and I am hoping we see the return of Poe and Tilly as soon as possible. This is a superb, entertaining, full of twists and tension, an utterly mesmerising thriller that I recommend highly! You will be missing out if you do not read this. Many thanks to Little, Brown for an ARC.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lou

    There are three reasons why I requested this - firstly, the endorsements of Peter James and A.A. Dhand, both authors I love. Secondly, the cover, and finally, the synopsis appealed to me as it sounded pretty dark and gruesome. Everything about this book screamed that it was going to be a fantabulous rollercoaster ride! I appreciated the setting, the Lake District is not very far from my home. I know it can be a very desolate place, so it's ideal for a serial killer to use as his stalking ground, There are three reasons why I requested this - firstly, the endorsements of Peter James and A.A. Dhand, both authors I love. Secondly, the cover, and finally, the synopsis appealed to me as it sounded pretty dark and gruesome. Everything about this book screamed that it was going to be a fantabulous rollercoaster ride! I appreciated the setting, the Lake District is not very far from my home. I know it can be a very desolate place, so it's ideal for a serial killer to use as his stalking ground, so to speak. I am so pleased that this is a series opener, meaning there is much more to come from M. W. Craven, I will be following this series through to its conclusion if the rest are as amazing as this was. The 'Immolation Man' is a serial killer that burns his victims alive inside the stone circles of the Lake District. Washington Poe and his team are the ones tasked at stopping him claiming any more victims, but can they identify and locate him before he strikes again? Books that are gory and dark seem to call out to me, and this, my first read by Craven, certainly didn't disappoint. Craven's writing is fantastic and draws you into the story from the first couple of chapters, once it's got you, it refuses to let you go! The friendship between Tilly Bradshaw and Poe warmed my heart. I look forward to their relationship and characters developing throughout the series. I would like to thank M. W. Craven, Little, Brown Book Group and NetGalley for the opportunity to read an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede

    I'm so very pleased to say that The Puppet Show is a fabulous book! I had high hopes, and you know high hopes high falls, so I'm especially glad when I realized not only is the book engrossing to read, it features two new favorite characters Detective Washington Poe and very socially awkward civilian analyst Tilly Bradshaw. Oh, their working relationship makes me think of Ash Henderson and Alice McDonald in Stuart Mcbride's series about Ash Henderson. Poe and Tilly just click, and there are so m I'm so very pleased to say that The Puppet Show is a fabulous book! I had high hopes, and you know high hopes high falls, so I'm especially glad when I realized not only is the book engrossing to read, it features two new favorite characters Detective Washington Poe and very socially awkward civilian analyst Tilly Bradshaw. Oh, their working relationship makes me think of Ash Henderson and Alice McDonald in Stuart Mcbride's series about Ash Henderson. Poe and Tilly just click, and there are so many wonderful moments, both funny and more serious. Anyhow, this is a crime novel so of course, there is crime happening. In this case, brutal murders, with the emphasis on brutal. Yes, being a man reading about the mutilations must be hard. I love the setting of the story, I really get a rugged landscape before my eyes and those stone circles that have been there so long time that no one knows what they are for. Now they are used for human sacrifices and Poe has to figure out who is killing these men and why and the investigation starts to reveal hints that the answers lie in the past... The ending is great, I started to have my suspicions towards a certain person towards the end and I was one the right course. It was such a fabulous ending, at one moment I was afraid it would end with a cliffhanger, and in a way it did, but in a good way. The book ended with me feeling satisfied and eagerly awaiting the next book! I want to thank Little, Brown Book Group for providing me with a free copy through NetGalley for an honest review!

  4. 4 out of 5

    The Book Review Café

    There is nothing more satisfying than coming across a new crime series that sets the pulse racing. I read so many crime thrillers that I find it’s getting more difficult to find one that really excites me, but hells bells The Puppet Show by the very talented M.W. Craven blew my socks off! What a fabulous start to a “must read series”.I knew from the shocker of an opening chapter The Puppet Show was going to be an exhilarating and thrilling read, I loved this novel for so many reasons, with a gri There is nothing more satisfying than coming across a new crime series that sets the pulse racing. I read so many crime thrillers that I find it’s getting more difficult to find one that really excites me, but hells bells The Puppet Show by the very talented M.W. Craven blew my socks off! What a fabulous start to a “must read series”.I knew from the shocker of an opening chapter The Puppet Show was going to be an exhilarating and thrilling read, I loved this novel for so many reasons, with a gripping storyline and fabulous characters The Puppet Show has “best seller” written all over it. Dark and gruesome are my favourite kind of crime thrillers, (make of that what you will!) and The Puppet Show fits the bill perfectly. As serial killers go this ones pretty terrifying, burning people alive, carving into theit charred remains, the author certainly has a vivid imagination, and his descriptive writing help you to visualise the gruesome scenes. With no clues the police are helpless, and enlist the most unlikely pairing I’ve come across in crime fiction, Washington Poe (love this name for a detective, not one you will forget in a hurry) and socially awkward civilian analyst, Tilly Bradshaw. The stars of this book are definitely the characters, oh how I loved them, Tilly was like a breath of fresh air, her naivety and innocence contrast beautifully with Poe’s cynical views, their budding relationship was endearing, and the dialogue between the two offered lots of humour in what could have become a dark and depressing read (due to the difficult subject matter). M.W. Craven has created characters who are unique and engaging, and I would go as far to say they are probably two of the most exciting characters I’ve come across in a crime thriller for a long time. Rather like the investigation team the reader has no idea who the serial killer is, when the killer was revealed I’m sure my jaw hit the floor, I can honestly say “I didn’t even come close” to working out the killers identify. The author taunts the reader by throwing in titbits of Poe’s past, which I’m desperately hoping will be the focus of one of the books in the series, very intriguing to say the least. You may have noticed my review is vague but I’m hoping it’s piqued your interest, my advice? Just buy it, if you are a fan of crime thrillers then this is definitely one book you don’t want to miss. I’m already desperate to read the next book in the series, and have everything crossed that I don’t have to wait long. Highly recommended All my reviews can be found at http:;/thebookreviewcafe.com

  5. 4 out of 5

    Keith Nixon

    A stunning novel that I suspect will be one of the novels of 2018 if not right at the top of the pile. If you read only one book this year make sure it is the puppet show.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Oh My Goodness Me! Having read a couple of the authors other books, I knew I would be in for a good reading experience, I hadn't been prepared to be totally blown away though as this book isn't just good, it's brilliant! There are so many detective books out there that I think it can be hard for an author to make their's stand out. M.W. Craven has well and truly gone for gold with his new series. Poe and Bradshaw have got to be the most amazing characters I have ever come across and it has left m Oh My Goodness Me! Having read a couple of the authors other books, I knew I would be in for a good reading experience, I hadn't been prepared to be totally blown away though as this book isn't just good, it's brilliant! There are so many detective books out there that I think it can be hard for an author to make their's stand out. M.W. Craven has well and truly gone for gold with his new series. Poe and Bradshaw have got to be the most amazing characters I have ever come across and it has left me absolute desperate for more. Poe is your typical main protagonist who has issues but what makes him stand out is how he takes Bradshaw under his wings. Their unlikely friendship was something that instantly appealed to me and they are going to be one sought after crime duo. Tilly Bradshaw is going to win new fans over in droves. Craven has uncovered an absolute diamond with this character and if someone doesn't snap this series up for television then there is something seriously wrong. You really need to read this book for yourself to understand the appeal of Bradshaw. I can't put into words just how fantastic a character she is and I really urge all crime fans to read it. Not only is there an amazing cast of characters, there really is one gripping case the team find themselves working on also. With a shocking and horrifying opening to the story, the reader not only gets drawn in instantly, it also gives them a taster of just what they can look forward to in the rest of the novel. The Puppet Show is this years must read. It just had everything I could have hoped for from a crime book and more. Brilliant, just brilliant. I now have to go through the agonising wait for the next one in the series.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Liz Barnsley

    The Puppet Show is a brilliantly twisted, horrifically wonderful serial killer thriller where the killer and thriller is totally outdone by the imaginative, engaging and purely emotionally resonant characters. Ok so we do have a mystery that is intriguing, compelling and utterly riveting whilst being totally hair clutching scary if you stop to just think about it for a moment – but then we have Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw – the best literary duo since, well, I don’t know when but a long tim The Puppet Show is a brilliantly twisted, horrifically wonderful serial killer thriller where the killer and thriller is totally outdone by the imaginative, engaging and purely emotionally resonant characters. Ok so we do have a mystery that is intriguing, compelling and utterly riveting whilst being totally hair clutching scary if you stop to just think about it for a moment – but then we have Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw – the best literary duo since, well, I don’t know when but a long time. Poe is fascinating, a rogue to out rogue Jack Bauer in 24 whilst doing it for all the right reasons of course, whilst Tilly is socially awkward yet highly intuitive and super intelligent. She says what she thinks when she thinks it and see’s the nuance that nobody else catches. Together their developing friendship and working relationship gives “The Puppet Show” an edgy, vibrant feel that raises it above any other thriller of this nature you’ll read at the moment. The author has such an eye for both plot and character development, you fall into this book and live in it’s pages – there are plenty of gorgeous little twists if you are into that sort of thing and the ending is terrifyingly edge of the seat. I loved every single moment of it, the settings are vivid and alive, the characters pop, even the peripheral ones and it is unpredictable and highly highly entertaining. I have literally nothing bad I can say about this one. Go get it. Don’t worry – you’ll survive. Probably…. HIGHLY recommended. More please.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lisa *OwlBeSatReading*

    Call me a psychic! A five star psychic! I predicted that The Puppet Show was going to be brilliant, and I was bloody right! I knew it! I just knew it! It gave me those vibes, you know what I mean? You pick up or hear about a book, feeling all attracted to the cover. Come on, we ALL love a bit of sinister looking cover art don't we? The synopsis gives you that 'oooh, this could be juicy' feeling. And it gets put right to the top of that enormous TBR, winking at you, beckoning you to pick it up. Th Call me a psychic! A five star psychic! I predicted that The Puppet Show was going to be brilliant, and I was bloody right! I knew it! I just knew it! It gave me those vibes, you know what I mean? You pick up or hear about a book, feeling all attracted to the cover. Come on, we ALL love a bit of sinister looking cover art don't we? The synopsis gives you that 'oooh, this could be juicy' feeling. And it gets put right to the top of that enormous TBR, winking at you, beckoning you to pick it up. This one went straight to the top of mine and I couldn't wait to get stuck in. Much to my delight there's murder and fire and stone circles and a copper who's got the DRIEST sense of humour ever. And there's a REALLY COOL CHICK too, who wears band tees and happens to be a mathematical genius. I'd also like to mention that there's a Spaniel called Edgar. That gives you a basic rambling idea of the two main characters, but I'm going to cast my mind back to my last read for a moment, Murder at the Mill (I'll call it MATM for short) by M B Shaw. Why am I mentioning my previous read I hear you cry?! Particularly in another book review as well! Shocking! Let me explain. Similies. Descriptions. Creative writing in general. It has to be good. Clever. Funny. Emotional. Flowy. I could go on. I'm a tough reader to please. MATM is a perfect example of how NOT to do it. In contrast, The Puppet Show is a perfect example of how it SHOULD be done. It's creative, witty, well planned and brilliantly researched. Craven's similes are CLASS. After my last read I was so relieved that this author can write. He can write gooooood. 'The chief constable walked like a man badly in need of a stool softener.' 'He had a drinker’s nose and his upturned chin resembled a jester’s boot.' If there's one thing I enjoy when I'm reading, it has to be when characters' personalities shine through and they become so real. 'Poe pointed at the BPhil after Francis Sharples’s name and asked, ‘You know what that means, Tilly? ‘Bachelor of Philosophy, Poe.’ Poe shook his head. ‘It means he’s a cock.’ Dry, British humour always gets a thumbs up from me, particularly if there's some cracking insults in the mix. The Puppet Show is one hell of a ride, I read it in just under two weeks but I wanted to read it in one sitting. Life got right in the way, and I found myself drifting off thinking about it when I should of been concentrating on work. I really wanted to cancel a family occasion as well because I just wanted to read. I love how a great book can make me feel so unsociable and selfish. I've always been a fan of crime fiction, especially when it's about a serial killer, my first being Silence of the Lambs twenty-odd years ago. I have also recently discovered Robert Bryndza and J D Barker for new reading in this genre. M W Craven is now up there for me as a go-to author as I just love the Britishness he injects into his story. I cannot fault The Puppet Show in any way, I highly recommend it. It is pretty graphic in places and there's a bit of sweary dialogue, but it all fits a treat. For a debut novel, this is exciting and gripping from start to finish. And I'm pleased to say that the author is currently writing #2. I will undoubtedly read the next instalment of Poe and Bradshaw solving gruesome murders in their quirky and entertaining way. Many thanks to Netgalley, Little, Brown Book Group UK and M.W. Craven for an advanced copy of this awesome book in exchange for an honest review. The pleasure was all mine.

  9. 3 out of 5

    Kirsty 📚📖❤️

    This is a really good crime thriller set in the sleepy Lake District. I got a bit confused between SCAS  (Serious Crime Analysis Section) and NCA (National Crime Agency). It took me a while to work out that SCAS is part of NCA and not two separate teams but it doesn't distract from the overall story. Every other crime book I've read has focused on the police force itself so I really liked seeing a procedural book from a different angle.  There are lots of twists and turns as you'd expect from a c This is a really good crime thriller set in the sleepy Lake District. I got a bit confused between SCAS  (Serious Crime Analysis Section) and NCA (National Crime Agency). It took me a while to work out that SCAS is part of NCA and not two separate teams but it doesn't distract from the overall story. Every other crime book I've read has focused on the police force itself so I really liked seeing a procedural book from a different angle.  There are lots of twists and turns as you'd expect from a crime thriller. It's a fast paced read and I loved the characters. I have to say I liked that Poe has Tilly dumming down the maths because otherwise I'd never have understood a word of it (not my strongest point maths and science) so thank you to the author for that. These are disturbing crimes and when the link is finally made between the victims the reason why they are being killed is equally as shocking. We enter into revenge territory and one persons quest to have their story told.  It's a superb debut and I'm looking forward to where these characters go next Free arc from netgalley

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mandy White

    The Puppet Show by M W Craven - what a brilliant book! I was hooked straight away - gruesome murders, a disgraced cop and great writing - what's not to love!! There is a serial killer in the Lake District - and he is burning his victims alive. When the 3rd victim is discovered with the name of Washington Poe on his chest, the suspended cop is returned to duty to work the case. Is it personal - who is doing this and is he next? He is teamed up with Tilly Bradshaw, a socially awkward but brilliant The Puppet Show by M W Craven - what a brilliant book! I was hooked straight away - gruesome murders, a disgraced cop and great writing - what's not to love!! There is a serial killer in the Lake District - and he is burning his victims alive. When the 3rd victim is discovered with the name of Washington Poe on his chest, the suspended cop is returned to duty to work the case. Is it personal - who is doing this and is he next? He is teamed up with Tilly Bradshaw, a socially awkward but brilliant civilian analyst as his former partner has his job. I loved the partnership of Poe and Bradshaw, they made me laugh and they work so well together being so different. I really hope that we see more of them in future books. The ending really surprised me, so many twists and red herrings!! Thank you to Netgalley and Little Brown Book Group UK for my advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinions.

  11. 3 out of 5

    Laura Rash

    I actually read the last 30 or so pages repeatedly saying”oh shit oh shit oh shit”! What starts off with gore to the max turns into one of the most complicated plots ever that goes back to years of information. The flawed characters in this book are so endearing that they beg for a series & I will be first in line to read the next book! Bravo Craven!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kate~Bibliophile Book Club

    Really enjoyed this one, evident from the fact that I read it all today. A proper crime thriller with a really great detective. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for book 2!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Elaine Tomasso

    I would like to thank Netgalley and Little, Brown Book Group UK for and advance copy of The Puppet Show, a police procedural set in Cumbria, featuring DS Washington Poe of the National Crime Agency. When Tilly Bradshaw, a civilian analyst with the NCA, discovers Washington Poe's name etched into the burned corpse of the third victim of The Immolation Man he is recalled to duty from suspension and together he, Tilly and DI Stephanie Flynn travel to Cumbria to support the local investigation. I thor I would like to thank Netgalley and Little, Brown Book Group UK for and advance copy of The Puppet Show, a police procedural set in Cumbria, featuring DS Washington Poe of the National Crime Agency. When Tilly Bradshaw, a civilian analyst with the NCA, discovers Washington Poe's name etched into the burned corpse of the third victim of The Immolation Man he is recalled to duty from suspension and together he, Tilly and DI Stephanie Flynn travel to Cumbria to support the local investigation. I thoroughly enjoyed The Puppet Show which is a very assured and well crafted début. It centres around the hunt for the Immolation Man who is killing seemingly random rich, elderly men so Poe and his colleagues are starting with a wide open field which they gradually reduce as more evidence and facts become apparent. I like this kind of novel with a single point of view where the reader knows what they know and no more. I identified the killer early on through gut feel rather than any smart reading of the clues so had no idea of motive or means. It didn't spoil my enjoyment of the novel in the slightest as he is well organised and cunning and has so many twists and so much misdirection in his repertoire that I was turning the pages furiously. I also like the planning and pacing of the novel where little by little the bigger picture emerges. I was very struck by the crispness of the writing and the use of technology in the opening chapters but while the technology stays the crisp sharp lines of the narrative get subsumed by the plot as the excitement ramps up. The plotting is complemented by strong characterisation with Poe, Flynn and Bradshaw making a formidable team. Poe is the maverick, instinctual ideas man, Flynn the manager who reins Poe in and gives him something to kick against and Bradshaw, the naïve, socially inept but brilliant analyst, obviously on the spectrum because nobody else could have her personality. She provides the humour although I'm not sure how realistic her personality is. The novel revolves around Poe from his ability to see past the obvious to his doggedness and desire for justice. For the reader he is very likeable but his disregard for regulations and unerring ability to upset every copper he comes in contact with make him a very unpopular character with his colleagues. The Puppet Show is a good read which I have no hesitation in recommending.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Thebooktrail

    Visit the locations in the novel Oh dear all that is good with the world Why do I read books which make me unable to sleep? Made the mistake of only reading a few chapters on the kindle - blue light tends to make me fall asleep - so a few hours later, I can only see ghostly puppet floating infront of my eyes. Burnt bodies at the Lake District. A kick ass crime fighting duo. Sharp clear writing and another author to covet. Eeeh the days of Punch and Judy have changed somewhat! This puppet show is WAY Visit the locations in the novel Oh dear all that is good with the world Why do I read books which make me unable to sleep? Made the mistake of only reading a few chapters on the kindle - blue light tends to make me fall asleep - so a few hours later, I can only see ghostly puppet floating infront of my eyes. Burnt bodies at the Lake District. A kick ass crime fighting duo. Sharp clear writing and another author to covet. Eeeh the days of Punch and Judy have changed somewhat! This puppet show is WAY more freaky and unnerving and you'll feel like that baby with the sore head by the end. totally worth it though!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Tracy Fenton

    Don’t you just love picking up a book and being instantly gripped and grabbed from the first chapter? Well The Puppet Show is one of those books and I literally couldn’t put it down until I finished it. What can I say that hasn’t already been said? The setting in Cumbria is atmospheric and it was easy to imagine yourself in the midst of the prehistoric stone circles; the characters were wonderful and I’m not sure who I fell in love with more; Washington Poe and his “couldn’t give a sh*t attitude” Don’t you just love picking up a book and being instantly gripped and grabbed from the first chapter? Well The Puppet Show is one of those books and I literally couldn’t put it down until I finished it. What can I say that hasn’t already been said? The setting in Cumbria is atmospheric and it was easy to imagine yourself in the midst of the prehistoric stone circles; the characters were wonderful and I’m not sure who I fell in love with more; Washington Poe and his “couldn’t give a sh*t attitude” or Tilly Bradshaw, the socially awkward but uber brilliant analyst assigned to help Poe and the team catch a brutal serial killer. The serial killings were pretty gruesome and once you find out exactly how the victims are murdered and what is done to them it’s quite difficult to get that image out of your head (urrrggghhhh!). There’s not much else I can say, except if you love a brilliantly plotted police crime thriller with a sick serial killer, some fabulous and quirky characters and the start of what should be a very successful series then pick up The Puppet Show and read it next.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    Hugely enjoyed this! A great story but the best of all the wonderful things about this novel were the fantastic, memorable characters. How I love Tilly! And I loved the Cumbria setting. All the stars. Review to follow shortly on For Winter Nights.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kat

    I really don’t have enough words to describe just how much I loved this book it has to be one of my top reads of the year if not out of all the books I have read it was amazing. Poe and Tilly were for me by far two of the best characters I have read in book I fell in love with both and I really hope that this series will continue as I miss them already. Beautifully written and a fantastic story and if I could give more than 5 stars I would .. A perfect book and thank you M.W. Craven it was amazi I really don’t have enough words to describe just how much I loved this book it has to be one of my top reads of the year if not out of all the books I have read it was amazing. Poe and Tilly were for me by far two of the best characters I have read in book I fell in love with both and I really hope that this series will continue as I miss them already. Beautifully written and a fantastic story and if I could give more than 5 stars I would .. A perfect book and thank you M.W. Craven it was amazing..so if you want a brilliant read then make it this one 5+++++

  18. 5 out of 5

    Natalie Mullan

    Absolutely brilliant. Could not put it down. Fast paced, excellent writing, extremely clever plot and fantastic characters. Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw make the book. Top of my list for psychological-thriller for the year (and a debut novelist...can’t wait for another novel)!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    A little over a year ago I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing a book called Body Breaker written by Mike Craven (that's Mike Craven as in M.W. Craven, if you were wondering what odd tangent I was meandering off at!), and it was an absolute joy to read from start to finish. I pretty much fell in love with Craven's protagonist, DI Avison Fluke. Then I heard Mike was about to release a new book called The Puppet Show, featuring a brand new detective with a brand new publisher (to Craven, tha A little over a year ago I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing a book called Body Breaker written by Mike Craven (that's Mike Craven as in M.W. Craven, if you were wondering what odd tangent I was meandering off at!), and it was an absolute joy to read from start to finish. I pretty much fell in love with Craven's protagonist, DI Avison Fluke. Then I heard Mike was about to release a new book called The Puppet Show, featuring a brand new detective with a brand new publisher (to Craven, that is). Now I openly admit, I was intrigued. After all, what crime fiction fan wouldn't be? Particularly when I heard the main character of The Puppet Show is called Washington Poe (what a name! Where does this author get inspiration from for his character's names? He appears to err on the unusual which is a rather splendid thing IMHO). Then, as if by magic (I pressed a button on NetGalley) a copy of The Puppet Show arrived on my Kindle and the deal was sealed. Washington Poe and I were destined to meet... And truth be told, I flipping love him as much as I love DI Fluke. Craven certainly knows how to write and develop a character to the point where they jump off the page at the reader. I was smitten from early on; particularly as we meet Poe after he has shunned modern life and is living with his loyal pet dog, Edgar, in a semi-converted shepherd's croft in the middle of nowhere (for 'nowhere' read Cumbria or the Lake District! Please don't hurt me Cumbrians, it does sound pretty vast, lonely and desolate from Craven's illustrative descriptions and I've never visited ).  Suspended from work following his last (bodged) case and awaiting the result of an internal investigation and an IPCC inquiry, Poe has pretty much decided that his past is very much behind him and that his future lies in Herdwick Croft with Edgar, and the sheep.  But that was before Cumbria's latest serial killer, The Immolation Man made matters personal.  Whether he wants to or not, Poe must return to the Serious Crime Analysis Section (SCAS) and to a case that could easily be the death of him. I have a bit of a thing for serial killer novels.  They're my favourite, particularly if they are a smidge on the gory side as well (which this book is).  I also thoroughly enjoy books which make you think the plot is heading one way and then totally flip things over and make you gasp in surprise when you end up somewhere you didn't expect (which again, this book did).  Another thing I love is a cast of well-written, individual, stand out characters who all add something to the story (yup, that's The Puppet Show).  I loved this book. As I've mentioned Washington Poe's supporting cast it would be rude to ignore them.  First and foremost, Tilly Bradshaw is a shining star and will appeal to nerds far and wide.  Her intelligence and her awkwardness are a delight to read and I hope she makes future appearances with Poe as her sidekick!  Beleaguered DI Stephanie Flynn is now her ex-bosses boss (!) which makes things somewhat tricky between her and Poe at times.  He's a little reckless and likes to follow the evidence anywhere, whereas Flynn likes to play by the book.  I would LOVE to read a prequel to The Puppet Show and see the dynamic between the two of them before Poe was demoted from DI to DS and Flynn was promoted.  Not dropping any hints here, Mike... Would I recommend this book?  I would, most definitely.  If you're a fan of crime fiction, if you can stomach a drop of blood or a pool of melted human fat (OK, it is a little grisly in places and you may need a slightly stronger stomach than I've alluded to in this paragraph, but for me I loved the gruesome touches to this book.  Plus the author provides a wealth of information about burns and the effect of fire on a human body) then you will enjoy this well-written, engrossing crime thriller.  I struggled to put it down and I'm left wanting more Washington Poe and more Tilly Bradshaw.  I can't wait for the next instalment. Five out of five stars. I chose to read and review an eARC of The Puppet Show.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Gram

    An absolutely fascinating and harrowing mystery thriller. Someone is kidnapping men, torturing them and setting them on fire while they're still alive. Their charred bodies are left at the sites of ancient stone circles in Cumbria - home to the Lake District and one of the most sparsely populated counties in the United Kingdom. The media call this twisted killer "The Immolation Man" and former Detective Inspector Washington Poe is brought back from suspension, despite the disaster of his previous An absolutely fascinating and harrowing mystery thriller. Someone is kidnapping men, torturing them and setting them on fire while they're still alive. Their charred bodies are left at the sites of ancient stone circles in Cumbria - home to the Lake District and one of the most sparsely populated counties in the United Kingdom. The media call this twisted killer "The Immolation Man" and former Detective Inspector Washington Poe is brought back from suspension, despite the disaster of his previous case which resulted in the torture and murder of the prime suspect. Although he's not afraid to bend or even break the rules, his police superiors realise they need his brilliant investigative skills to solve this case. Now reinstated as a Detective Sergeant, Poe is aided by civilian analyst, Tilly Bradshaw, a computer and maths genius with a staggeringly high IQ. But Tilly has led a very sheltered life and is socially awkward. Poe becomes her knight in shining armour when, on two separate occasions he physically defends her, first hurting a policeman who calls her a "retard" and having him sacked and later, crushing broken glass into the hand of a drunk who has tried to molest her. Meanwhile, the devious killer, who leaves no forensic clues, has a plan to draw Poe deeper into his murderous actions. He carves the detective's name into one of the bodies and Poe slowly realises there are clues which only he is meant to see. With the aid of Tilly's terrific computer skills - for example, she adds her own programmes to existing police computer software - the unlikely partners gradually discover the killer's twisted plans. Their inquiries lead them to a former children's home and the realisation that the murder victims - previously seen as "pillars of the community" - were involved in horrific acts of child abuse. The author, M. W. Craven, who has a background in social work and the probation service, pulls no punches in detailing how these children suffered. The sense of a terrible injustice is palpable. All the while, the murderer stays one step ahead, pulling the strings as he guides the police investigation where he wants it to go. But, by dint of solid police work and the brilliance of Poe and Tilly, the truth about the serial killer's motives is uncovered. This dark, riveting tale ends with a shattering confrontation in the wilds of Cumbria, itself almost a separate character in the story. The decades old motive for these torture killings will be revealed as will Poe's own childhood trauma. This is a terrific crime novel and heralds the start of a series featuring the "odd couple" of Tilly Bradshaw and Washington Poe. Highly recommended. My thanks go to the publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this book in exchange for an unbiased review.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Abby Slater- Fairbrother

    The Puppet Show is the first novel in a new series (I hope). It features DS Washington Poe and civilian analyst Tilly Bradshaw. The duo compliment each other perfectly and it truly makes this a fantastic new series. Where Poe is brash and rugged, Tilly is socially awkward, yet intelligent and direct. I can’t praise the creation of Poe and Tilly enough! The novel opens with a scene of a man being set alight. It sets the tone for the nature of the crimes detailed within the novel. This is no Nancy The Puppet Show is the first novel in a new series (I hope). It features DS Washington Poe and civilian analyst Tilly Bradshaw. The duo compliment each other perfectly and it truly makes this a fantastic new series. Where Poe is brash and rugged, Tilly is socially awkward, yet intelligent and direct. I can’t praise the creation of Poe and Tilly enough! The novel opens with a scene of a man being set alight. It sets the tone for the nature of the crimes detailed within the novel. This is no Nancy Drew, the murders and are dark and they are brutal. The press name the killer the ‘Immolation Man’ and the victims begin to stack up! Washington Poe is currently residing in Cumbria, serving out a suspension, from his last case a violent torture/murder case that saw Poe lose his rag! When DI Stephanie Flynn informs him, his name was carved into the chest of one of the victims. If he doesn’t help the team, they have to issue him an Osman warning as his life is at risk. . . ‘I need you to re-join the human race’ – Steph The novel then goes on to detail all the victims and the savage murders that took place. It is not for the faint hearted! As said above these are violent murders. But the novel does focus more on the skills of the detectives than scenes of graphic violence. Matilda (Tilly) Bradshaw obtained her first degree at Oxford University at just 16yrs old. Since then she has acquired a masters and two PHD’s. she specialises in computers and mathematics. She has virtually zero social skills and is routinely bullied by fellow police staff. Something Poe does not take kindly too. Poe and Tilly attempt to fathom a connection between the victims. They are all wealthy men, of the same age and were staked and burnt in the exact same manner. Yet they struggle to establish what links these men. Then Poe receives a postcard, with a sinister message. . . The message leads the police to a case from the past. How this ties into the current murders they are not sure. Did someone make a mistake in a past case? Do the murders have a revenge theme? If so who is targeting Poe? And why? This is a brilliant debut novel, with a phenomenal ending! I very much look forward to the rest of the series and I can see it having a long and prosperous life. I applaud the author on his usage of inclusive characters. I am a huge fan of Tilly Bradshaw and can’t wait to watch her develop throughout the series! 5*

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jacqueline Murphy

    "The Puppet Show" is a skillful, dark and gripping murder mystery by M.W. Craven set in in and around the ancient moorlands and stone circles of Cumbria. A serial killer is setting people alight, alive in the stones circles, he leaves only one clue on the third victim, he carved the name of Washington Poe onto his victim, who is currently on suspension from the NCA, with no other options, they have no choice but to bring him in on the case. Steph Flynn, Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw are sent "The Puppet Show" is a skillful, dark and gripping murder mystery by M.W. Craven set in in and around the ancient moorlands and stone circles of Cumbria. A serial killer is setting people alight, alive in the stones circles, he leaves only one clue on the third victim, he carved the name of Washington Poe onto his victim, who is currently on suspension from the NCA, with no other options, they have no choice but to bring him in on the case. Steph Flynn, Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw are sent to Cumbria to set up base to investigate and offer help to the local police. With the body count rising and no closer to figuring it out, Poe and Tilly (who is a socially awkward super brain analyst... loved her!) set about uncovering clues that only Washington is meant to see and interpret. Just when you think you are getting closer to the truth and figuring it out, BAM another twist to completely throw you out, wonderfully written and well thought out, what you guess will certainly be wrong!!! I know I was!! When the mystery surrounding the serial killer is solved and in an unbelievable shocking twist, it leaves Poe with more questions about his own personal life, his family, everything he thought he knew. I really enjoyed the friendship that built up with Poe & Tilly, she really came out of her shell with him to guide her and although completely different worked brilliant together. Word to the wise: DO NOT READ THE OPENING PARAGRAPH IF ABOUT TO EAT!!! #notforthefainthearted!!! I really look forward to reading more about Poe and what lies in store for the future! Many thanks to Netgalley, Little, Brown Book Group UK and of course M.W. Craven for an advanced preview of this spectacular book in exchange for my honest opinion.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Colette Lamberth

    This is a good story, well told but what sets it above the many others in this genre is Poe and Tilly. They are definitely an odd couple but a good example of something being greater than the sum of its parts. I believe this is the first book in a series and that makes me very happy and hopefully it’s a long series. My thanks to the publisher Constable for this copy received via NetGalley.

  24. 3 out of 5

    Julie Lacey

    I loved this book and can’t wait for more in this series. The body of a man is found burnt at the stake in a stone circle and DI Flynn is investigating the murder. Another body then turns up and the cuts on his burnt chest spell out Washington Poe. Flynn knows Poe but knows he’s currently not working due to a case that went badly wrong a few years ago. Poe is asked to join the team but the powers that be want him kept on a very short leash. Poe works closely with Tilly and they have a great rela I loved this book and can’t wait for more in this series. The body of a man is found burnt at the stake in a stone circle and DI Flynn is investigating the murder. Another body then turns up and the cuts on his burnt chest spell out Washington Poe. Flynn knows Poe but knows he’s currently not working due to a case that went badly wrong a few years ago. Poe is asked to join the team but the powers that be want him kept on a very short leash. Poe works closely with Tilly and they have a great relationship, full of banter and misunderstandings! (Those of you who have read this will know exactly what I mean!) I loved this about the book and it really adds to the story. This is a fantastic first book in this series and I will definitely be buying the next one. Thanks to The Little Brown Book Group and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book.

  25. 5 out of 5

    David Gilchrist

    This author is good, very good. A cracking story from the first page to the last. Well written and flows well. I do hope that we come across "Tilly " again at some stage a really fabulous character. Will be reading more form this guy.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Susan Hunter

    An excellent book. Characters of Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw " make" this book. A superb partnership aided by DI Steph Flynn. Washington Poe is a man for justice who is asked to help investigate the murders of several men by The Immolation Man . A gripping storyline which kept me intrigued throughout. I have to admit found it emotional, upsetting and disturbing concerning some event but this was imperative to the storyline and added that extra element to the book. I am delighted this is th An excellent book. Characters of Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw " make" this book. A superb partnership aided by DI Steph Flynn. Washington Poe is a man for justice who is asked to help investigate the murders of several men by The Immolation Man . A gripping storyline which kept me intrigued throughout. I have to admit found it emotional, upsetting and disturbing concerning some event but this was imperative to the storyline and added that extra element to the book. I am delighted this is the first in the series as it is a series I will surely be following for quite a while!

  27. 3 out of 5

    Teresa

    This book is the first in a new series of crime thrillers by M.W. Craven and is the story of the 'Immolation Man' a serial killer that burns his victims alive inside the stones circles of the Lake District.  What is his motive and will Poe and the team catch him before he claims another one? This is the first I've read by this author and, WOW, what a book to start with!  Dark, gripping, gory, suspenseful - all of these things rolled together and thrown at the reader to digest in this amazing seri This book is the first in a new series of crime thrillers by M.W. Craven and is the story of the 'Immolation Man' a serial killer that burns his victims alive inside the stones circles of the Lake District.  What is his motive and will Poe and the team catch him before he claims another one? This is the first I've read by this author and, WOW, what a book to start with!  Dark, gripping, gory, suspenseful - all of these things rolled together and thrown at the reader to digest in this amazing series debut. I was gripped by this book from the very beginning, it's written so incredibly well and kept me on the edge of my seat every time I picked it up, it was very hard to have to put it down and carry on with the real world.  I instantly loved Tilly Bradshaw, the way she took everything anyone said to her so literally made her all the more loveable and the friendship she built up with Poe was beautiful.  What a double act!! I can't wait to see more of these two in action.  A sensational 5 star read from start to finish. I'd like to thank Little Brown Book Group for the auto approval and will post my review on Goodreads now and Amazon on publication day.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Good Lord , Detective Poe is an interesting character isn't he? This was a great read, full of twists and turns and a very frightening killer. Detective Poe is amazing, a well developed character who I am eager to read more of!

  29. 3 out of 5

    Joanne Robertson

    Oh my days!!!! The Puppet Show is one of those books that you want to start messaging people about the very minute you finish it to tell them how bloody brilliant it is and that they need to read it RIGHT NOW!! Which I did and then wondered how the hell I was going to write a review to do this book justice and get everyone else to read it too! So forgive me if I can’t convey how AMAZING this book is but I’m going to try! The Puppet Show is the full package for lovers of gruesome crime thrillers! Oh my days!!!! The Puppet Show is one of those books that you want to start messaging people about the very minute you finish it to tell them how bloody brilliant it is and that they need to read it RIGHT NOW!! Which I did and then wondered how the hell I was going to write a review to do this book justice and get everyone else to read it too! So forgive me if I can’t convey how AMAZING this book is but I’m going to try! The Puppet Show is the full package for lovers of gruesome crime thrillers! It’s gory, twisty and addictive with perfectly pitched characterisation all wrapped up in a darkly humorous narrative that will have you falling in love with Washington Poe. Set in the Lake District, the disgraced former detective lives in self inflicted solitude until he is brought back to investigate a serial killer who seems to want Poe on the case for some inexplicable reason. He teams up with the socially inept but breathtakingly brilliant Tilly Bradshaw to follow the clues to catch a murderer who disposes of his victims with a precision of violence that just has to be personal, hasn’t it? And Poe is about to discover just how much he has become part of this vindictive campaign of horror. I loved loved LOVED this book!! Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw made a perfect team and their working and personal relationship really did become the pivot point that this thriller revolved around. I came to truly care about them and felt as if I actually knew them as the author painted such a perfect picture of their foibles and personality traits that they practically came alive off the page. The taut dialogue kept the plotline sharp and controlled as not a word was wasted without adding something important to the narrative. I couldn’t put it down and was amazed that the awe I felt in those first few pages that quickly drew me in didn’t let up for the whole time I was reading it. The shocking twists and turns were unexpected and flawlessly set up and I was practically purring with enjoyment the more the plot unfolded to my satisfaction! I’m telling you now that there is no way this book won’t be sitting on my favourite books of the year list for 2018! It’s just PERFECTION! And to add to my excitement, I found out when I finished it that Washington Poe 2 is going to be out later this year! I can’t wait and fingers crossed it will be as good if not better than The Puppet Show. Very highly recommended by me!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kath

    Oh my! I think I have a rival for my other favourites in Washington Poe. he is just everything I need in a main character. And, if he wasn't enough to make this one of my favourite books of the year so far (out of 132) I also learned a new punctuation mark! Oh and the story was a bit cracking too! So, we have a serial killer operating in the Lake District. Someone is burning bodies at stone circles and leaving the police no clues. Until that is civilian analyst Tilly Bradshaw uses a forensic tech Oh my! I think I have a rival for my other favourites in Washington Poe. he is just everything I need in a main character. And, if he wasn't enough to make this one of my favourite books of the year so far (out of 132) I also learned a new punctuation mark! Oh and the story was a bit cracking too! So, we have a serial killer operating in the Lake District. Someone is burning bodies at stone circles and leaving the police no clues. Until that is civilian analyst Tilly Bradshaw uses a forensic technique on the third victim which uncovers a message; Washington Poe. What exactly does the killer want with a cop who is currently suspended for his part in a case going a bit south? But, with nothing else to go on, he is welcomed (coerced) back to the force and joins in the investigation; reluctantly! Partnered with Tilly and under the supervision of his old DS - now DI, Stephanie Flynn, can Poe find the pattern that links the victims and, hope above hope, find and stop the killer before the body count rises further? What I liked best about this book, apart from the excellent plotting, was the main characters and the team that they become. Tilly has Aspergers and consequently is a bit naive and green initially. She never leaves the office let alone travels. It was wonderful to see her grow through the book as she came out of her shell a bit. Poe is the stereotypical maverick cop with a blatant disregard for the rules but with a strong sense of justice. Actually, that description doesn't really do him justice. He is so much more than that but I am going to leave you to discover him as the author intended and make your own mind up. Back to Tilly and Poe though, well, they were a bit chalk and cheese initially but they rubbed along well and developed more than just an understanding of each other. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that they were actually good for each other. By the end of the book I had a strong feeling that I was going to miss them. I've also mentioned that the plot was excellent but it was also very well executed. Yes, I did have an inkling of who was what but the why evaded me for a while. I am not even sure why I was drawn to this person but then I do read an awful lot of this genre book so I guess I just have a nose for things. This did not in any way impede my overall enjoyment of the book by the way; far from it as there was so much more to the book than just a simple whodunnit. And that ending. Oh My Goodness. There's gonna be some fallout! I'd be very surprised if this book doesn't end up in my top five for the year and I really can't wait for the next one. My thanks go to the Publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this book.

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