‘An explosion of fat, guts, bones and blood filled his mouth. The sweet flesh and bitter entrails were sublime. The grease that coated the roof of his mouth was breathtaking. Sharp bones pierced his gums and his own blood seasoned the meat’
– Black Summer
Bet that got your attention?
Black Summer by M.W. Craven is the second instalment in the Washington Poe series, following on from the hugely successful first book, The Puppet Show. Originally released in digital format in June 2019, the paperback edition of Black Summer will be published on 12th December 2019 with Constable (Little, Brown Book Group) and I am thrilled to be joining in the celebrations today with my review (albeit a vague one) of this rather outstanding read.
M.W. Craven is the award winning novelist of the 2019 CWA Gold Dagger Award and after literally inhaling this book, I can see why.
[ About the Book ]
After The Puppet Show, a new storm is coming . . .
Jared Keaton, chef to the stars. Charming. Charismatic. Psychopath . . . He’s currently serving a life sentence for the brutal murder of his daughter, Elizabeth. Her body was never found and Keaton was convicted largely on the testimony of Detective Sergeant Washington Poe.
So when a young woman staggers into a remote police station with irrefutable evidence that she is Elizabeth Keaton, Poe finds himself on the wrong end of an investigation, one that could cost him much more than his career.
Helped by the only person he trusts, the brilliant but socially awkward Tilly Bradshaw, Poe races to answer the only question that matters: how can someone be both dead and alive at the same time?
And then Elizabeth goes missing again – and all paths of investigation lead back to Poe.
[ My Review]
I opened the book. I read the first page. I continued reading and I was instantly committed. Black Summer is THAT crime fiction book that disgusts, horrifies and excites all at the same time and I loved it. Not having read The Puppet Show I was a little wary before I picked up my copy but my concern was unnecessary.
M.W. Craven is an award-winning author and his talent is obvious from the opening hook. Someone is breathing their last, someone is dying…alone, frightened and accepting of death.
My body is eating itself….
I can’t stop it….
The end is close….
I can feel it….
Who this is, or why, will be for the reader to discover, as the chapters slowly reveal the ugly truth behind this dark, dark tale.
DS Washington Poe was involved in the original incarceration of Jared Keaton for the murder of his teenage daughter, Elizabeth. The body was never discovered. With sufficient, alternative, incriminating evidence gathered by Poe and his team, the Michelin starred chef was put away for life. Poe always insisted that Keaton was psychopathic, carrying all the personality traits to make him so but Keaton has always defended his innocence and now six years later, it is very very likely that Jared Keaton will walk free.
In a small village, a weakened and clearly troubled young lady approaches a police man with a shocking statement. She claims to be Elizabeth Keaton, back from the dead…….
Washington Poe is immediately brought into the case. He is stunned at what he sees and as the evidence mounts against his original case, Poe is faced with the very real possibility that Jared Keaton will walk free. What Poe hadn’t envisaged was the possibility of a murder charge being brought against himself.
Tilly Bradshaw is Poe’s friend and colleague and all round tech expert. Tilly thinks, acts and reacts very differently to everyone else. Socially Tilly behaves in a rather unique and, for some, rather outspoken manner but Poe fully respects Tilly, resulting in a strong and very solid friendship between the two. Tilly has access to the darker side of the net and there literally is no challenge too big for her to take on. With her ability to access ALL areas and her logical approach to everything she does, Tilly is right by Poe’s side, assisting him in getting to the bottom of this very complicated and real threat.
Tilly is an incredible character. There is a light that shines from her which is wonderfully depicted throughout . Although Black Summer is grim and is laced with some very macabre images, Tilly’s unusual personality adds a spark of something very unique to the story. Her characterisation is expertly interwoven into some dramatic scenes and together with Poe, they make a formidable team. Washington Poe has his own very intriguing back story and the reader does get fed snippets of his past as the story unfolds. Poe carries a lot of personal baggage but his investigative work is respected by most except for a few who always have the knives ready….
As the investigative team get to work, and the layers begin to unravel, the reader is exposed to some medical and tech terms, just enough to be enthralled, but not overawed, by the associated jargon.
There are gruesome scenes. There are images that will probably forever remain in my mind but, wow, was it worth it. Black Summer is EVERYTHING I look for in a thriller. It kept me on my toes, it kept me guessing and it continued to shock and horrify me.
A damn good read Mr. Craven, an excellent example of crime writing perfection and I thank you!
Black Summer is a highly addictive read, a stomach-churning, dizzying and compelling read that I literally inhaled in one sitting…because I had no choice.
Highly recommend (just not while eating your Christmas Turkey perhaps!)