Constable | 2019 (20 June) | 400p | Review copy | Buy the book
Detective Sergeant Washington Poe maintains that celebrity chef Jared Keating is one of the most evil men that he has ever encountered. Evil that stands in striking contrast to the man’s charm and charisma. He’s currently serving a life sentence for the murder in his Cumbrian restaurant of his daughter Elizabeth and Poe was instrumental in catching him, putting him away and throwing away the key. Then one day, six years later, a girl staggers into a library where a local policeman, a community problem solver, keeps a desk. All of the evidence indicates that she is none other than Elizabeth Keating. Poe’s career will be destroyed but even worse than that for Poe is the knowledge that a psychopathic killer will walk free. With the help of analyst Tilly Bradshaw, Poe is determined to prove the impossible and stop that from happening.
Last year, M.W. Craven introduced Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw to the world in the brilliantly dark, atmospheric and beautifully located The Puppet Show. Black Summer is every bit as good. You don’t need to have read the first book to enjoy Black Summer, but I really think you should anyway. Poe, Tilly and their boss DI Stephanie Flynn (and Edgar the dog) are worth your time.
Poe’s job is based in Hampshire but once more he must return to his roots and the stunning, remote Cumbrian countryside. That is a big part of this series’ appeal. M.W. Craven immerses us in the Lake District, although we go well off the beaten track. Poe’s croft is impossible to get to by car. You’ve got to use a quad bike or walk. The weather is awful. The croft is sparse. But Poe is grounded in this place and we feel that. Poe is a fascinating character. He’s troubled, with quite a past, but he’s also thoughtful, determined and kind. And that brings us to Tilly who is a very good reason why I’ll always read these novels. She is an absolute delight. On the spectrum and frequently a social embarrassment, she is a fixated, obsessive, warm genius. She and Poe together are so funny. And when Flynn is with them this wonderful trio of characters is complete. I love all three of them.
The story at the heart of Black Summer is brilliant! I loved the celebrity chef aspect to it. Much of the book takes place in and around his famous kitchen and I really enjoyed the little culinary details and tips. This is very witty writing and the scenario is perfect. The tale is dark, gory, frightening at times and often sinister as Poe and Tilly dig into what it means to be a psychopath. It’s utterly engrossing.
Black Summer is a really excellent, atmospheric, moody and compelling crime mystery, set in a beautiful location and with a pleasingly foody aftertaste. It’s so good to see Tilly, Poe and Flynn again and here we see them investigating a mystery that is fully worthy of them. This is a series to keep close.
The Puppet Show