Friday 4 June 2021

Dead Ground by MW Craven #DeadGround @MWCravenUK @LittleBrownUK #WashingtonPoe #PoeAndTilly @BethWright26


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 . . .

Dead Ground by MW Craven was published in hardback on 3 June 2021 by Constable and is the fourth book in the Washington Poe series. 

If you haven't yet read anything from this series, I urge you to go out immediately and buy book one, The Puppet Show, and then go on and read the rest of them. Whilst all of them can be read as stand alone stories, the reader will benefit by knowing some of the back story of the characters. If you are already familiar with Washington Poe and his sidekick Tilly Bradshaw then you are in for such a treat. Craven has delivered once more, and as incredible as it may sound, because he has always been brilliant, this latest instalment is the best yet. 

In Dead Ground, Poe and Tilly find themselves in unfamiliar territory. Whilst they know the town of Carlisle very well, the working practices of the people they find themselves assisting are very different to anything they are used to. However, Poe, in his usual straight-talking fashion will have none of it, and if this agency need his knowledge and skill they are going to have to get used to his particular way of working. 

A man is found beaten to death in a back street brothel. At first glance, this seems to be a pretty straight forward murder case. However, Poe doesn't work cases like that. He investigates serial killers.

Things really do not add up in this case. Links to highly sensitive matters with top-security clearance become obvious and barriers are put in Poe's way at all turns. This is where Tilly comes in. There is no level of security that Tilly cannot break, and she cracks them all, discovering things along the way that shed light on the background to this case.

It's a complicated and complex plot, but never difficult to follow. One of Craven's strengths is having two characters with so much knowledge between them, but about very different things. When Tilly explains to Poe how to create a programme that will let them into the most secure of systems, and then Poe describes how Government and the Armed Forces work, the reader learns too. We are never left in the dark, everything is cleverly explained, without reams of overly descriptive text, it's very clever.

Poe and Tilly are probably the best duo in crime fiction at the moment. Their incredible work partnership is only overshadowed by the strength of their friendship and loyalty. They are a tight team, never ever letting each other down. They infuriate each other but they work together like a well oiled machine; with mutual respect and such an endearing and enduring friendship. 

Woven through the pacy and unrelenting thrill of this story is an incredible wit too. The humour lifts the reader, creating a welcome break from the heart-pounding tension and making the characters feel so human and lifelike. It's a delicately and wonderfully balanced mix.

Craven's dialogue and plotting is without fault. Not only is the writing sublime, the ingenuity of the structure is perfectly done. 

There are authors who I could read every single day of my life. There are characters who have crawled under my skin and who I have begun to love. Craven, Poe and Tilly are that author and those characters.

Breath-taking, fascinating and gripping. Dead Ground is everything I expected and more. Very highly recommended.

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.

Twitter: @MWCravenUK

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