Today is is my absolute pleasure to tbe sharing my thoughts on The Curator, book three in the brilliant Washington Poe series from M.W. Craven. I was late coming to this series but have made up for it since and devoured this one in just a few short hours. My thanks to Little Brown for letting me have the early copy – life savers I tell you. Here’s what it’s all about:
About the Book
It’s Christmas and a serial killer is leaving displayed body parts all over Cumbria. A strange message is left at each scene: #BSC6Available from: Amazon | Kobo | Waterstones | Googleplay | Apple Books
Called in to investigate, the National Crime Agency’s Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw are faced with a case that makes no sense. Why were some victims anaesthetized, while others died in appalling agony? Why is their only suspect denying what they can irrefutably prove but admitting to things they weren’t even aware of? And why did the victims all take the same two weeks off work three years earlier?
And when a disgraced FBI agent gets in touch things take an even darker turn. Because she doesn’t think Poe is dealing with a serial killer at all; she thinks he’s dealing with someone far, far worse – a man who calls himself the Curator.
And nothing will ever be the same again . . .
Oh, I do love a good Poe and Tilly story, and this is a most excellent Poe and Tilly story. Take a little snow, an impending Christmas holiday and some of the most grim seasonal offerings or secret Santa gifts you could ever hope to happen upon, and the scene is set for a story which is intrigue, confound, excite and surprise you in equal measure. With a little touch of ewww for good luck. It is an M.W. Craven story after all.
The story starts in typical Washington Poe style – with a scene that immediately grabs your attention and leaves you with so many unanswered questions. Thankfully that is exactly why they employ Poe and Tilly and all of the team at the National Crime Agency. Only this case has them flummoxed too, largely because they don’t have ‘whole’ victims, and the staging of the bits they do find are so very varied and extreme that it is clear a very devious mind is at work.
The story draws upon an idea that I find fascinating – whether or not it is possible to incite strangers to act entirely against character. Looking at the psychology of the dare, of backing people into a corner in which they are left with only one choice seems incredible and yet is also very believable. That whole idea of online challenges, the need to feed it, to accept increasing;y challenging, and often illegal dares,is hardly knew but is used to good effect here in a way that is very difficult to talk about without giving far too much away. Let’s just say that they initial investigation that Poe is called in to partake in is really just the very small tip of a much larger and far reaching iceberg. And it is an iceberg that the team are set for a potentially catastrophic collision with.
Littered with the usual dark humour that we have come to expect from the series, it really lifts what could otherwise have been an overly intense read. There is a very disturbing truth at the heart of this novel, one that might well shock you and certainly something I didn’t see coming – not directly anyway. I had some suspicions over one character’s behaviour but certainly not that.
I do love the dynamic between Poe and Tilly. They really should not work as a team, and I know I say that every time I review these books, but that’s only because it is true. They are so opposite in character, Poe sarcastic and gung-ho whereas Tilly is factual, straight talking (even if unintentionally – irony does not compute) and driven by the science. She keeps Poe grounded, finding the evidence of the links that has instinctively knows are there. There is one scene where she acts completely out of character, at least in Tilly terms, but it shows how Poe is rubbing off on her, as well as showing her fighting spirit which we first saw in. evidence in book one.
Not only do you get great characterisation, as expected, but you also have the beauty of setting with the author using the landscape of the Lakes and Shap area to full effect here. Whilst some of the locations in the story are fictional, it did make me more intrigued about the area. I’ll admit I have never been to the Lake District and, having read these books I’m not sure if I am more or less inclined to do so now, but the passion the author has for the area is very evident. He recreates not only urban landscape of a city, but the perfect isolation of the countryside, from Poe’s idyllic and remote home, to the extreme of the island hideaway out in the Irish sea where one of the killer’s potential victims resides. It certainly fascinates me and leaves me with a sense of longing to see the area for myself.
The pacing is fast even if sometimes it seems progress on the case is frustratingly slow. With the added disadvantage of the weather and tidal systems working against them it all serves to create a climax that is as thrilling, unexpected, nerve jangling and bloody satisfying as they come. All through this book you will have scene’s where you think you know, but you’ll probably be wrong. Even up to those high-stakes, jeopardy laden final scenes you will probably be second guessing yourself. Misdirection is rife, the suspect pool almost endless, and with a seasoned killer in play you know that it could all well end in tragedy. And then when you think it really is all over there is that ending. Quite what that means for the future of the team, one of them in particular … Well I, for one, cannot wait to find out. Most definitely recommended but be prepared to lose and entire day to the book as once you start reading, you won’t want to stop.
And I loved it so much it’s getting one of these:
About the Author
M. W. Craven was born in Carlisle but grew up in Newcastle, running away to join the army at the tender age of sixteen. He spent the next ten years travelling the world having fun, leaving in 1995 to complete a degree in social work with specialisms in criminology and substance misuse. Thirty-one years after leaving Cumbria, he returned to take up a probation officer position in Whitehaven, eventually working his way up to chief officer grade. Sixteen years later he took the plunge, accepted redundancy and became a full-time author. He now has entirely different motivations for trying to get inside the minds of criminals . . .
The Puppet Show, the first in a two-book deal he signed with the Little, Brown imprint, Constable in 2017, was released to critical acclaim in hardback in 2018. It has been sold in numerous foreign territories and the production company Studio Lambert, creators of the award-winning Three Girls, have optioned it for TV. The sequel, Black Summer, follows in June 2019.
M. W. Craven is married and lives in Carlisle with his wife, Joanne. When he isn’t out with his springer spaniel, or talking nonsense in the pub, he can be found at punk gigs and writing festivals up and down the country.