Dead Ground by M.W. Craven

I absolutely love the Poe and Bradshaw series by M.W. Craven, and after such a gobsmacking ending of the previous book in the series, couldn’t wait for the release of Dead Ground. Thankfully, and thanks to publisher, Constable, I didn’t have to. Here’s what the book is all about:

Source: Netgalley
Release Date: 03 June 2021
Publisher: Constable

About the Book

Detective Sergeant Washington Poe is in court, fighting eviction from his beloved and isolated croft, when he is summoned to a backstreet brothel in Carlisle where a man has been beaten to death with a baseball bat. Poe is confused – he hunts serial killers and this appears to be a straightforward murder-by-pimp – but his attendance was requested personally, by the kind of people who prefer to remain in the shadows.

As Poe and the socially awkward programmer Tilly Bradshaw delve deeper into the case, they are faced with seemingly unanswerable questions: despite being heavily vetted for a high-profile job, why does nothing in the victim’s background check out? Why was a small ornament left at the murder scene – and why did someone on the investigation team steal it? And what is the connection to a flawlessly executed bank heist three years earlier, a heist where nothing was taken . . .

My Thoughts

If you are looking for an action, mystery, tension and laughter filled read, then you know you’ve it’s going to be a pretty safe bet that the next book in the Washington Poe series by M.W. Craven is going to fit the bill. And fit the bill it does, with Dead Ground proving once again why Poe and Tilly Bradshaw are one of the best crime fighting teams around. Corruption, cover ups, murder, aggravating some of the countries top Spooks … All in a day’s work for this duo.

We’re used to Poe being engaged in some slightly unusual murder investigations, and, by that respect, the style of murder in this book seems almost, well, pedestrian in comparison. Almost … This wouldn’t be a Washington Poe novel if everything was really that straightforward. After teasing readers with an opening chapter that is seemingly incongruous with the story that follows, Poe and Bradshaw soon find themselves invited to participate in an potential murder investigation with links to a major political summit that is due to be happening in Carlisle. And by invited, I mean, given no choice. And you know how Poe is when he is not given a choice … Cue the tension, and the humour, and those wonderful sparks of Poe’s contrary character that we all come to love so much and you know that this is going to be one hell of a fun ride.

What I loved about this book was the way in which the author takes us deep into the world of the military and the Afghanistan war, an environment that most of us would only really know from what we have seen on the television. It informs rather than overwhelms the story, but it is important and the way in which the violent history of the war is woven into the narrative is authentic and accessible, and with the author’s own employment history you can understand why. You get a sense of the tension and the emotional impact of the conflict, but only in a way which enhances and drives the action of the main investigation. And the way that those on the periphery of the investigation – the suspects, the bereaved family, even the extended military family – really rings true. A blend of resilience, discipline and something just a little more.

This series, though, is really nothing without it’s characters. From the straight talking, no nonsense Poe, the often far too literal Tilly, and all of those that they come into contact with, M.W. Craven has really made sure that every single personality counts. I especially liked the character of Alastor Locke. Not a man you can necessarily settle with or trust, for reasons that will become apparent in the reading, but he has the measure of Poe as Poe does of him, and the back and forth between the pair really did bring a smile to my face. He was someone I’d actually happily see come back in another story. And if you have read The Curator then you’ll spot another very familiar face make an appearance. Very different in character to Poe and Tilly, larger than life in personality, but definitely a great boost to the story. The author really has a knack for bringing them all to life, making them believable, if not always likeable, and using this to send us off in a direction we weren’t expecting.

I know it is often said, but this was a story that really did keep me guessing to the end. With emotion infused throughout, a good deal of tension, good pacing, top notch characters and a whole heap of misdirection, ( and bearing in mind who Poe has to work with this time, that is almost a given) this book delivered an ending that was very, very satisfying. And the narrative is, as always, littered with the kind of unintentional (Tilly) and downright sarcastic and deliberate (Poe) humour that has come to typify this series. If you don’t love the banter that happens between the characters, and the comedy gold of the literal interpretations of incorruptible and far too innocent Tilly, then you have no soul.

Mr C you have pulled another blinder. Definitely recommended. And it gets 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.

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