The Puppet Show by Mike Craven

A review

A release from Mike Craven is always a cause for celebration, for many reasons. First and foremost, he writes gripping police procedurals with thriller elements to rival those of Michael Connely and Lee Child. Maybe it as the fact that I’ve been concurrently reading a book by Dostoyevski and a couple of dense horror books, but The Puppet Show was – like all of Craven’s previous releases – a guilty pleasure I looked forward to in the few sittings it took  to finish it. Secondly, Craven sets his books in the area where I live, so it was particularly intriguing to read about the settings of the grisly murders which begin the story – the stone circles littering the county of Cumbria. This, together with his extensive knowledge of police procedures give the story an authenticity that adds spadefuls of drama.

The premise of Craven’s story is the discovery of several burned bodies at said stone circles, mutilated while the victim is still alive. To top it all off, the latest recipient of these attentions, named ‘The Immolation Man’, has incised the detective Washington Poe’s name on his chest. So straight away, we have a number of questions that demand answers: what links the murders? What is the perpetrator’s motive? Why has he identified Poe in such a macabre way? The pace picks up rapidly and Craven drops in hooks and cliffhangers with expert craftsmanship.

As usual, I’m not going to give a detailed description of the story, but suffice it to say, the antagonist is playing the police and all concerned like the puppetmaster that gives the book its name. Speaking of the title, for me ‘The Immolation Man’ would have made an even more striking name for the book as novels with ‘puppet’ in the heading are littered across the thriller and mystery genre. Still, this is a small quibble.

One of the main characters, Tilly Bradshaw is the perfect foil to Washington Poe. At first sight, she is similar to Holly Gilby – Stephen King’s OCD support character from his Mr Mercedes trilogy. But Bradshaw develops into a unique individual, central to the novel’s attraction. The relationship between Bradshaw and  Poe is an enthralling one, leaving enough substance to drive a series of novels. I believe Craven has already written the next one and there are others on the way. Like his previous books – ‘Born in a burial gown’ and ‘Bodybreaker’ – Craven employs tight plotting, lots of twists and turns and break-neck pacing. He leaves no loose ends, and at the end of the story the reader is left with a sense of Poe having unfinished business. I don’t think this is a spoiler, as we’re already told this will be the first in a series of books. I look forward to reading more.

The Puppet Show can be purchased in all good book stores. I got mine from Amazon.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: