THE PUPPET SHOW - by M.W. Craven

THE PUPPET SHOW (Washington Poe #1) - M.W. Craven
Published: June 2018 - Constable.
Genres: Adult / thrillers / mystery / contemporary
Pages: 352.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Violence / graphic, gruesome descriptions / strong language / child abuse / mentions of rape
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Jonathan Ball SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

A serial killer is burning people alive in the Lake District's prehistoric stone circles. He leaves no clues and the police are helpless. When his name is found carved into the charred remains of the third victim, disgraced detective Washington Poe is brought back from suspension and into an investigation he wants no part of. Reluctantly partnered with the brilliant but socially awkward civilian analyst, Tilly Bradshaw, the mismatched pair uncover a trail that only he is meant to see. The elusive killer has a plan and for some reason Poe is part of it. As the body count rises, Poe discovers he has far more invested in the case than he could have possibly imagined. And in a shocking finale that will shatter everything he's ever believed about himself, Poe will learn that there are things far worse than being burned alive...

How chilling is that cover?! Every time I look at it, my stomach curls. Those burnt letters make me think of flesh (which is probably the point) but ew ;) 

The writing is stellar. I like Craven's style, and the dialogue, specifically, is excellent - witty and to the point, it's just terrific.
I also love that the chapters are short. The plot is fast anyway, but short chapters just make everything so much more enjoyable and easy to read. The story is richly entertaining, with a dash of action here and there, and it's compelling and tight with a surprising and infrequent inclusion of dry humour.
In addition, the mystery took me by surprise. It is so, so clever, although definitely dark. And speaking of, a number of descriptions in this book are rather hard to stomach ;) They're graphic.

What a cast of characters! Poe is the "do whatever it takes to get things done" detective who thinks as impulsively with his fists as he does with his brain. Stephanie Flynn is his boss, and although I like her, her personality definitely isn't as strong as the other characters; I would've liked to have seen her fleshed out more.
Tilly is another great character. She's a genius, a whizz with IT, but at the same time socially inept and extremely naive. Her bluntness is endearing, as are her comic book T-shirts, and she's a unique if not unusual addition to the lead characters.

I also love her relationship with Poe. There's no romance between them - she's like his little sister - but he always has her back, looks out for her, and she clearly respects and trusts him. They're sweet together.

The Puppet Show is a dark, gruesome tale that allows its stand-out cast to pull the strings (#sorrynotsorry). Brilliant writing, strong action, and a smart plot make this a wickedly good thriller. 

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