A serial killer leaves his burned and disfigured victims within one of the stone circles of Cumbria. Each victim is an elderly man, disfigured and burned. Detective Washington Poe's suspension from the Serious Crimes Unit has been lifted. Tilly Bradshaw, a brilliant data analyst, has been assigned to work with Poe. The challenge is for Poe and Tilly to stop the "Immolation Man" before he kills again, and again.
Readers: Be warned -- this book is dark, with descriptions and themes that become increasingly so as the story progresses.
Craven begins by turning a place usually thought of as magical, into one of fear and horror, constantly increasing the tension throughout very well-timed plot twists and a red-herring or two. The fascinating forensic and analytic work described moves the story forward at a breath-catching clip. Craven's writing is compelling. Even at the darkest parts, one never wants to stop. There is always that sense of wanting to know more; seeing where the path lead; whether will justice be done, and even questioning what constitutes justice.
What truly makes this book work is the characters. Yes, they are rather stereotypical, but one doesn't care. Poe, the rule-breaker with a soft heart, will do whatever it takes to solve the case. Tilly, the brilliant, clever, possibly autistic sidekick, is genuinely appreciated for the first time in her career, is given a chance to spread her wings and show her talents. As a team, they are quirky, delightful, and you cheer for them every step of the way.
The trail Craven lays for Poe and Tilly to follow is fascinating, wonderfully atmospheric, and exciting. It is filled with a plethora of interesting information along the way. It includes a side path with the history of Poe's name which one assumes with have more relevance later in the series. One small point: a glossary of all the acronyms would have been helpful.
"The Puppet Show" is dark, twisty, suspenseful, filled with great characters, and one of the most gratifying endings of late. However, the best part is knowing there are for Poe and Tilly books yet to be read.
THE PUPPET SHOW (Thriller/PolProc-Poe/Tilly-Cumbria, Lake District, England-Contemp) – Ex
Craven, M.W. – 1st in series
Constable, June 2018, 352 pp