First Sentence: The man wearing a Sean Connery mask said to the man wearing a Daniel Craig Mas, 'Bertrand the monkey and Raton the cat are sitting by the fire, watching chestnuts roast in the hearth.
Detective Sergeant Poe and analyst Matilda "Tilly" Bradshaw are part of Britian's Serious Crimes Analysis Section (SCAS). They hunt serial killers and serial rapists. Investigating the murder of a man found in a pop-up brothel is not their function, but the victim's connection to the US Secretary of State means MI5 and the FBI are involved, and Poe and Bradshaw are assigned to solve the murder.
Although it is always good to read a series from the beginning, Craven provides enough structure that, due to an effective opening that then takes one into the story where he introduces many of the major players along the way, one may jump straight in. He is also clever in making the victim someone other than the top official while making the importance of the summit clear and leaving the plot plenty of scope to travel down other paths. He writes very short chapters. Each is a scene that keeps the story moving forward.
Craven also understands that some of the major elements so critical to a good story are humor—"From Harry Potter to prostitutes in three easy moves—that was quite a turnaround."; dialogue which is quick and crisp; and relationships, not only is Poe protective of Tilly, but she is of him as well. The partnership is also an excellent way of including detailed information which is understood by Tilly and enables her to explain it to both Poe and to the reader. Where Tilly is logic, Poe is emotion and determination. While some of the technology is fascinating, it is also terrifying as some of it is real.
The plot is original and brilliant with an excellent flow that proceeds at breakneck speed still giving one time to take an occasional breath. This is not a story one can predict. Characters are often not who one thinks they are. The revelations are not only surprising but occasionally shocking and cleverly constructed. As each occurs, one feels they should have seen it but didn't because the story is so absorbing. The masterful twists and red herrings continue to the very end. The tension of the climax is gripping, the final resolution well done, and the very end a perfect lead-in to subsequent books.
"Dead Ground" is an excellent read. The depth and excitement of the rapid-paced plot causes non-stop reading and puts Craven's name on the list of "must-read" authors.
DEAD GROUND (Thriller/PolProc-Poe/Tilly-Cumbria, Lake District, England-Contemp) - Ex
Craven, M.W. – 4th in series
Constable, Jun 2021, 428 pp.