Tuesday 26 March 2024

The Mercy Chair by M W Craven #TheMercyChair @MWCravenUK @LittleBrownUK @BethWright6 #WashingtonPoe #TillyBradshaw


Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin . . .

Washington Poe has a story to tell.

And he needs you to listen.

You'll hear how it started with the robber birds. Crows. Dozens of them. Enough for a murder . . .

He'll tell you about a man who was tied to a tree and stoned to death, a man who had tattooed himself with a code so obscure, even the gifted analyst Tilly Bradshaw struggled to break it. He'll tell you how the man's murder was connected to a tragedy that happened fifteen years earlier when a young girl massacred her entire family.

And finally, he'll tell you about the mercy chair. And why people would rather kill themselves than talk about it . . .Poe hopes you've been paying attention. Because in this story, nothing is as it seems . . 

The Mercy Chair by W M Craven is published in hardback on 6 June by Constable. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. This is the seventh book in the Washington Poe series.

I remember so well that January of 2019 when I discovered The Puppet Show, the first in the Washington Poe series by M W Craven. I knew this series was going to be something special and I was proved right. Every time I read another in the series, I say that it is the best yet .... and yes, I'm going to say it again. The Mercy Chair is downright addictive, it's very very dark, but it's one of the best crime stories that I've read for a long long time.  I read most of this on the plane out to Maderia, and then my other half took it and he read it in one day ..... and then we talked and talked and talked about it. God knows if anyone overheard our conversations, they were probably frightened to death of us if they did! 

I do advise that people read this series in order. The character development has been astonishing, and Poe's back story is really important. However, the author is clever, he does include enough for anyone to read this as a standalone, and not get confused. 

The Mercy Chair has a somewhat strange beginning and it took me a few pages to realise what was happening, but it's a fabulous hook and it is continued right through to the shocking ending, another Bravo for this clever author. 

We find Poe speaking with a therapist about his disturbed nights and how the crows won't leave him alone in his dreams. He goes on to relate what has recently happened and it is this case that is central to the novel. It all started when a local religious leader was stoned to death after being tied to a tree. The victim is covered in tattoos, many of them self done, and one of them holds the answer to the reason why he's dead. 

The reader is taken to some of the darkest places, and witnesses some horrific crimes during Poe's story. The most terrible cases of abuse done in the name of religion, the hidden stories that some adults have never learned to live with and the damage caused to young people who are now grown up. Adults with minds that are so broken that their only relief is to inflict as much pain as they can on those they believe are responsible. 

The case takes a great deal out of Poe and without his trusted sidekick Tilly, and his partner Estelle Doyle, he may not have have got through this. However 'always look on the bright side of life' (when you know, you know), Tilly's exceptional brain and Estelle's care do help him to crack this case. 

Once again, Craven has drawn such an amazing relationship between Tilly and Poe, two of the most unlikely friends, who will defend each other to the end of days.  In The Mercy Chair they are shadowed by an official from the Audit Office called Linus - Poe immediately nicknames him as Snoopy. Poe never feels easy about Snoopy, and I didn't either, in fact I guessed, well before Poe did, exactly why he was there, and it is devastating. When the truth is revealed about Snoopy's mission, my heart broke a little and I only hope that Craven will fix it in the next book. 

Oh, and the ending ...... oh, the ending. Total and utter shocker that I had no idea was going to happen. I knew exactly when my other half had got to 'that part' from the loudest WTF that I've head from him in years!  Prepare yourselves .... 

This is dark, emotionally challenging stuff but it is so so clever, everything ties together, everything makes sense. Don't read this one in the dark!  Highly recommended. 

Multi-award winning author M. W. Craven was born in Carlisle but grew up in

He joined the army at sixteen, leaving ten years later to complete a degree in social work. Seventeen years after taking up a probation officer role in Cumbria, at the rank of assistant chief officer, he became a full-time author. 

The Puppet Show, the first book in the critically acclaimed, best-selling Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw series, was published by Little, Brown and went on to win the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger in 2019. 

Black Summer, the second in the series, was longlisted for the Gold Dagger as was book three, The Curator. 

Dead Ground won the CWA Steel Dagger in 2022 and book five, The Botanist, won the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year in 2023. 

Dead Ground and 2022’s The Botanist were both Sunday Times bestsellers. 

The series has now been translated into twenty-seven languages. 

Fearless, the first thriller in the new US-set, Ben Koenig series, was published in June 2023 by Flatiron Books in the US and by Little, Brown in the UK. Fearless will soon be a major TV series.

M. W. Craven lives in Carlisle with his wife, Joanne. When he isn't talking nonsense in the pub, he can usually be found at punk gigs and writing festivals up and down the country.


X @MWCravenUK

Instagram @m.w.craven

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